Ahmed Saif, 59, speaks during his interview with Reuters at his office in the Nile Delta town of Shebin El Kom, about 60 km (37 miles) northwest of Cairo, January 19, 2014.(REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
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When an uprising toppled Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak, men like Ahmad Saif who helped run his vast patronage network melted away.Three years later, Saif and other former members of Mubarak's party are back in action in the populous countryside, offering everything from refrigerators for newlyweds to welfare-like stipends to the poor in exchange for votes. This time, the slick political machine is drumming up support for army chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who toppled Egypt's first freely elected leader, Islamist Mohammad Morsi, and is expected to become president. The 2011 revolt was meant to rid the political landscape of operators like Saif, who served in Parliament under Mubarak.Sisi, whose image hangs on posters across Shebin El Kom, may have to depend in the long term on local politicians who can secure a level of consent from the population that cannot be achieved by force alone.To keep his popularity intact, Sisi would have to work the strategic countryside, just like Mubarak did. After Mubarak's ouster, Saif took a backseat politically and watched Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood dominate elections.Days later, Sisi had toppled Morsi and unveiled a political road map he promised would bring free and fair elections.Involved early on as a youth leader in the local branch of Mubarak's ruling party, Tellawy's status as the wealthy scion of a well-connected family made him a natural candidate for office.Like Saif, he sees Sisi as the answer to Egypt's myriad problems.
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