Anti-government protesters celebrate in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. Image Credit: AP

Cairo: Five years after the overthrow of Islamist president Mohammad Mursi, Egypt has come a long way in recovering from political and economic unrest resulting from his one-year rule, experts have said.

On June 30, 2013, millions of Egyptians took to the streets demanding Mursi to step down due to his divisive and incompetent rule.

He spurned the demand as his loyalists vowed a violent backlash against protesters, triggering fears of street battles in the country.

Three days later, the army, led by then Defence Minister Abdul Fattah Al Sissi, toppled Mursi and detained him.

Thousands of his Muslim Brotherhood members and followers have since been rounded up for inciting and involvement violence.

“A main principle championed by the June 30 revolution is equal citizenship in terms of rights and duties for all Egyptians irrespective of religious faiths and social standing,” said Abdul Aleem Mohammad, an analyst at the Cairo-based Al Ahram press institution.

He added that Egyptians’ mass protests against Mursi and the Brotherhood vociferously repudiated theocracy.

“Egyptians’ insistence on the modern civil state reflected their rejection of the religious state promoted by the terrorist and Islamist groups based on a distorted interpretation of religious texts. This was disastrously obvious in the Brotherhood’s rule that threatened Egypt’s national fabric and raised the prospect of a civil war,” Mohammad added.

Egypt has seen a spate of fatal militant attacks, mainly targeting security forces and the minority Christians since Mursi’s ouster.

Since taking office as Egypt’s president in 2014, Al Sissi has been keen to re-establish security across the country and rejuvenate its economy ruined by the unrest that followed a 2011 popular uprising, which forced Mursi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, to resign.

Al Sissi, who was re-elected with a landslide in March, is believed to have fared well against all the odds.

“During the Brotherhood rule, the unemployment and budget deficit rates soared, while most commodities and services became scace,” said Rashad Abdu, an economic expert.

“At the time, electricity outages were the norm of the day. We also used to wait for hours in order to fill our cars with petrol. Now everything is available and the world’s outlook of Egypt’s has become positive,” Abdu added.

In May, Egypt’s foreign reserves hit a record 44.1 billion dollars against a humble 15 billion in 2013. The current economic growth stands at 5.4 per cent compared to 2 per cent under the Brotherhood, according to official figures.

“President Al Sissi has inherited a heavy legacy. He has taken bold decisions such as subsidy cuts to address the situation,” Abdu said.

In recent months, Egyptians have experienced a wave of price increases resulting from a harsh reform programme aimed at healing the country’s ailing economy.

In November 2016, Egypt floated its local pound and cut the state fuel subsidy, steps that unleashed hikes in prices of different goods and services in this country of nearly 95 million people.

The measures secured Egypt a 12-billion-dollar loan over three years from the IMF.

Al Sissi has repeatedly said that the reforms are necessary to rejuvenate the economy and urged Egyptians to be patient.

“Al Sissi has risked his popularity by taking these bold decisions,” said Abdu. “Even though, only the ungrateful people will deny the enormous economic accomplishments attained since the removal of the Brotherhood from power. A major achievent is the new Suez Canal.”

Less than two months after he took office in June 2014, Al Sissi unveiled a plan to construct an extension to the historical Suez Canal, an artificial short cut linking the Mediterranean and Red seas.

At the time, he ordered that the 35-kilometre stretch be built in a record one year.

The eight-billion-dollar project was wholly funded by Egyptians through certificates of deposits, reflecting popular support for the new leader.

In August 2015, the new stretch was inaugurated at a grand ceremony attended by world leaders and dignitaries.

The scheme marked a milestone in a series of mega-projects that included building a nationwide network of roads, electricity stations and well-equipped new communities for slum dwellers.

Five years after Mursi’s ouster, Mohammad, the Al Ahram analyst, believes that the results have been far-reaching.

“Egypt has faced the uphill challenges resulting from the June 30 revolution. They included the confrontation of terrorism, re-establishing state institutions and economic revival,” he said. “The influences have favourably gone beyond Egypt to the region.”

Al Sissi has said on several occasions that Egypt’s anti-terror war is waged on behalf of the Arab region that has in recent years been roiled by violent militancy.