Once, former President Hosni Mubarak said “I do not like working amid pressure”, in response to calls for demonstrations that began to increase in 2005 and the emergence of the ‘Kefaya’ (Enough) movement in the streets in reaction to increased prices, increased unemployment, rigged elections, and efforts to amend the constitution to start implementing the succession agenda.
Three decades earlier, on January 17 and 18, 1977 specifically, Sadat backed away from the government’s decisions to raise prices, as he saw a reduction of Arab support and increased American pressure to attract him to negotiations with Israel.
President Mubarak’s regime couldn’t escape from the abyss, while President Sadat managed to pass the crisis peacefully and temporarily, until his regime fell because of arrest campaigns on September 5, 1981, which was criticized by both opponents and supporters, including his wife Jehan Sadat.
People are the source of legitimacy, and one of the major disasters that toppled other leaders in Latin America, Asia, Africa and elsewhere was simply that leaders assumed that their legitimacy was found in foreign capital.
Of course vanity alongside the above was also one of the most important factors that toppled some of these systems.
To sum up, politics is the art of the possible, knowing when to put pressure and when to back down, bargain, negotiate, leave something in exchange for giving an alternative, and so on.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in his political approach pointed out that the poor endured a lot for their country and for the implementation of the economic reform program, and sometimes he even pointed out that this endurance was also for his sake. He praised this endurance a lot.
Therefore, the president acted intelligently when he realized that the people are the source of legitimacy, and that satisfying those who bear a lot to pass the economic crisis is a must.
All this was behind the reduction in fuel prices and some food commodities.
External pressures were some of the constraints disregarded when prices decreased. Amid the war on terror and attempts by some countries to blockade Egypt economically in the hope of a fictitious return to the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities, reducing the prices of some goods was a commendable deed.
The internal criticism by government supporters on the decision to cut prices, because of the timing, was not right at all.
The price cuts came after two weeks of calls to demonstrate and take to the streets because of dissatisfaction with rising poverty, prices and more. But all of this is countered by the fact that people are the source of legitimacy, and statesmanship requires passing crises at the moment of their eruption, like extinguishing a fire with a large amount of water.
Justifying the price cuts with the reason that a committee from the Petroleum Ministry discussed the pricing of fuel and found it necessary to reduce it, and the explanation that the foreign currency exchange rate decreased against the Egyptian pound was a major reason for lowering prices, had not been received positively.
Honesty and satisfying those who are the source of the legitimacy of any political system ,the people, is not degrading or discouraging, but is actually one of the secrets to the survival of political systems, keeping it young and strong.
The political leadership’s awareness of the movements on the street, both in realizing what delights them, as well as responding in a timely manner, will constitute as long as it exists a significant weight on its side in front of its source of legitimacy.