Egyptians renewed online criticism of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday, hours after he said he was “saddened” by a similar campaign a few weeks ago.
The Twitter hashtag “Leave, Sisi” was the top trend in Egypt on the social media platform late in the day with more than 50,000 tweets.
The same hashtag trended last month, with nearly 300,000 tweets over several days, but then subsided. That campaign came as the government enacted painful austerity measures including increases in fuel, electricity, drinking water and Cairo metro prices. An opposing campaign defending Sisi appeared, but drew less online support.
Sisi said at a youth conference at Cairo University that last month’s campaign had upset him.
“I’m trying to get you out of this rut and you do a hashtag saying ‘Leave, Sisi’. Am I saddened or am I not saddened?” he said.
A few hours later, many Twitter users had responded by reviving the hashtag and posting criticism of his policies.
The number of Twitter messages is not necessarily an accurate indication of levels of satisfaction with Sisi. Many young Egyptians use social media, but many of its population of almost 100 million do not.
Critics of Sisi say he has presided over the most oppressive political crackdown in Egypt’s modern history, citing the jailing or alleged intimidation of opponents before March’s presidential election, and the arrests of journalists and online activists.
There has also been anger about economic reforms introduced in line with a $12 billion IMF loan agreement, which included slashing the value of the Egyptian pound in late 2016, making most people worse off.
Sisi has many supporters, however, who believe his economic measures will pay off.
They also say a crackdown on dissent is needed to stabilise Egypt, after a 2011 uprising and the unrest that followed, including an Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula that has killed hundreds of police, soldiers and civilians.