Egypt’s el-Sissi begins 2nd term amid crackdown on dissent
CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was sworn in for a second four-year term on Saturday after being re-elected in a vote earlier this year in which he faced no serious challengers
El-Sissi took the oath of office before parliament amid tight security across much of Cairo. Police sealed off roads leading to parliament in central Cairo for more than three hours. After the oath, artillery fired a celebratory 21-gun salute.
In an address to the packed chamber, el-Sissi vowed to continue working to restore stability, revive the economy and combat an insurgency by Islamic militants centered in the northern Sinai Peninsula. He said in his second term he would focus on education and health care.
“Egypt can include all of us, with all our diversity and richness... except those who choose violence and terror to impose their will and power. Egypt is for all and I am a president of all those who agree with me or disagree,” he said at the ceremony, also attended by his Cabinet and religious leaders.
Since el-Sissi’s re-election in March, authorities have intensified a crackdown on dissent with a wave of arrests of high-well-known activists and human rights campaigners. Among those arrested are blogger Wael Abbas, pro-democracy activist Shady el-Ghazaly Harb, young comedian Shady Abu Zeid and activist Amal Fathy. They all face an array of charges including disseminating false news and belonging to an outlawed group.
The European Union and human rights groups have voiced concern over the latest wave of arrests and called for the detainees to be released.
El-Sissi won more than 97 percent of the vote in the March election, with turnout of more than 40 percent. He faced no serious challenger, after a string of potentially strong candidates withdrew under pressure or were arrested.
His sole opponent, little-known politician Moussa Mustafa Moussa, was a supporter of the president and joined the race at the last minute to spare the government the embarrassment of a one-candidate election.
El-Sissi was first elected in 2014, nearly a year after leading the military overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected president, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, amid mass protests against his divisive rule.
Since then, authorities have waged a sweeping crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of Islamists as well as many of the prominent secular activists behind the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Unauthorized protests have been banned, and hundreds of websites, including those of rights groups and independent media, have been blocked.
Egypt says such measures are needed to restore stability after years of unrest and to combat the Islamic State-led insurgency in the Sinai.