Presidential frontrunner Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who ousted elected leader Mohamed Morsi, has prioritised stability over freedoms, insisting it will take up to 25 years for Egypt to achieve "true democracy".
Three years after millions of protesters demanding "bread, freedom and social justice" ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak's regime, Sisi warned such aspirations were hindering national security and slowing a much-needed economic recovery.
"You write in the newspaper, 'No voice is louder than freedom of speech!' What is this?" Sisi asked a group of Egyptian journalists at a round-table meeting in Cairo this week.
"What tourist would come to a country where we have demonstrations like this? Are you forgetting that there are millions of people and families who can't earn their living because of the protests. It is one of the manifestations of instability."
Since 2011, Egypt has seen two presidents ousted after mass street protests, a deadly crackdown on protesters that has killed scores, and a spate of militant attacks that has left the country deeply polarised and its economy in shambles.
Sisi said that given the situation in Egypt, which cannot be compared to Western democracies, it could take "20 to 25 years to achieve true democracy" in the Arab world's most populous country.
Karim Bitar, research head at the Paris-based International and Strategic Relations Institute, was unconvinced, however.
Bitar said these apparent measures may find short lived popularity but in fact they are sowing the seeds of future instability which is alarming.