by Burak Bekdil
Turkish President Erdogan's hatred of Egypt's President Sisi is not about a choice between democratic practice or dictatorial rule. It is about Sisi's fight against radical Islamists, whom Erdogan adores.
- Sisi apologized for the delays in rebuilding churches that were destroyed by Islamists in 2013. He said: "We have taken too long to fix and renovate [churches] that were burned. Please accept our apologies for what happened ... by next year there will not be a single church or house that is not restored."
- A total of 1,845 people in Turkey have been investigated, detained or prosecuted for "insulting" Erdogan since he was elected in August 2014.
In theory, Egypt is ruled by a former army General who came to power by a coup d'état. In contrast -- and in theory, too -- Turkey is ruled by a leader who has the popular support of half the voters -- a democratically-elected man. But as the West (not always Western leaders) tend to highlight, in bolder-than-ever letters, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's is a tyrannical governance while Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi wins praise.
Erdogan has declared several times that Sisi is an illegitimate dictator, a wording that sent diplomatic relations between Ankara and Cairo into the deep freeze. If Erdogan cared about undemocratic practices in a country, he would reform his own government. Instead, he keeps intimidating and intimidating. He openly challenges the rule of law, including a statement that he will not obey the Constitutional Court rulings he does not like; and taking over critical media outlets -- the kind of things any observer would expect from an "Arab dictator."
Erdogan's hatred of Sisi is not about a choice between democratic practice or dictatorial rule. It is about Sisi's fight against radical Islamists, whom Erdogan adores. "Sisi is the most rational Arab leader today," said Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli Ambassador to Cairo, in a speech last month. "Sisi is fighting radical Islam."
In the past couple of years, Egyptian newspapers have often suggested that Sisi was fallible. For instance, Al Watan identified factors undermining Sisi, mentioning, notably, "corruption and nepotism" -- two unpleasant words that can, in "democratic" Turkey, and even without an addressee, lead to detention and a torturing trial.
In 2015, Sisi mentioned a television presenter who said that he was meeting with [the German company] Siemens and that "he left Alexandria to drown (in the rainwater)." His reaction to that claim was a mere "this is indecent."
In another public appearance, Sisi apologized for delays in rebuilding churches that were destroyed by Islamists in 2013. He said: "We have taken too long to fix and renovate [churches] that were burned ... Please accept our apologies for what happened ... by next year there won't be a single church or house that is not restored."
In the West, the governance of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) is considered tyrannical, while Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (left, hugging Coptic Pope Tawadros II) wins praise.
In another speech, Sisi asked the police to tolerate dissent. He also apologized to Egyptian lawyers after one of them was physically assaulted by a policeman.
When hardcore football fans chanted against Mohamed Hussein al-Tantawi, a former army chief and former defense minister, Sisi phoned into a television show to defend Tantawi, instead of telling the prosecutors that the football fans are "terrorists" who should be arrested and tried -- as would happen in Turkey.
In January, a day after a cartoonist was arrested for mocking him, Sisi said that he does not mind criticism, and that it is his job to placate disgruntled youths. Cartoonist Islam Gawish was released without being charged. Sisi said:
"I'm not upset at Gawish or anyone ... If I accept being in such a position, I must bear all the consequences. There is no such thing as all people agreeing on something ... Every day, 90 million people in Egypt find many things that make them uncomfortable."Also in January, Sisi's use of a red carpet for his motorcade provoked criticism in Egypt. No doubt, cars carrying Sisi and other officials that drove down the red carpet looked funny. Many commentators mocked the extravaganza as the president was making a speech in which he warned that the state could not continue subsidizing water and electricity bills for low-income families. One activist accused Sisi of "trampling on the people's money." Youssef al-Husseini, a television presenter, asked, "How could you reach such a level of hypocrisy by rolling out red carpets on the streets for the president's motorcade? Could we not have spent the money on buying duvets for people freezing in the cold?"
None of that is thinkable in Erdogan's Turkey. A total of 1,845 people in Turkey have been investigated, detained or prosecuted for "insulting" Erdogan since he was elected in August 2014.
Meanwhile, since October, the death toll in bomb attacks in Turkey's capital, Ankara, alone has reached 169.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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