Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1355, (3-9 August 2017)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1355, (3-9 August 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Searching for candidates

Political parties are gearing up for next year’s presidential elections, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Searching for candidates
Searching for candidates

Asked during the fourth National Youth Conference whether he intended to run for a second four-year term next year, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi was evasive.

He answered by saying “presidential elections in Egypt in 2018 will be very important” and urged the public to go out and vote.

“Voting day will be the day on which we decide the future of Egypt,” he said. “My message to all Egyptians is that even if you have to stand in line for hours you should cast your vote. This sends the world a message that you have freely exercised your will.”

Yet Al-Sisi’s answer was interpreted by many commentators as confirmation he would stand. A number of political parties seized on Al-Sisi’s comments to pledge their support for a second term and some MPs said they would like to see the constitution changed to allow the president to remain in office for six rather than four years.

The Free Egyptians Party (FEP), with 65 MPs the largest in parliament, said in a meeting on 27 July that if Al-Sisi chose to run for a second term the party would support him.

FEP head Essam Khalil pointed out that the party had organised a celebration near the Giza Pyramids to mark “the fourth anniversary of the people’s decision on 26 July 2013 to give Al-Sisi a popular mandate to defeat terrorism”.

“It was on that day the majority of Egyptians chose Al-Sisi to save Egypt from extremists.”

After three years in office, says Khalil, Al-Sisi had changed Egypt’s image for the better.

“A new Suez Canal was built, foreign exchange reserves in the Central Bank grew from $14 billion to $35 billion, and Egypt escaped the spectre of bankruptcy.”

FEP MP Khaled Abdel-Aziz Fahmi told Al-Ahram Weekly that “Egyptians will vote for Al-Sisi next year because they have lost their trust in politicians.”

“The public knows that politicians are either corrupt or weak and that the military is most capable of delivering services and following through on hard decisions. Al-Sisi may not have acted like a military man in the last three years but the fact that he was the country’s army chief helped create an excellent level of cooperation between the presidency and the army and this has been very important for a country which witnessed a great deal of chaos in the last four years.”

The FEP wants Al-Sisi to stay in office for four more years to consolidate his achievements on national security level and to see his economic reforms pay off, says Fahmi.

In a statement issued on 29 July the Wafd Party also announced it was backing Al-Sisi for a second term. Wafd Party head Al-Sayed Al-Badawi told reporters the party would not be fielding a candidate in the presidential poll.

“Presidential elections will be held in May 2018 and no Wafdist candidates will be running,” said Al-Badawi.

“The Wafd Party promotes the national interest and we support Al-Sisi, with the stipulation that he maintains a firm stand against Islamist parties in his second term. I also hope President Al-Sisi will promote civil society in terms of showing greater respect for human rights, press freedoms and opening up the political arena.”

Several minor political parties — the Conference Party, the Free Constitutional Party, the Conservative Party, the Guardians of the Future Party, the Freedom Party and the Future of a Nation — have also announced their support for Al-Sisi.

Left-leaning political parties have refused to give a say whether they will field candidates in the presidential poll.

The Tagammu Party, which supports Al-Sisi’s anti-Islamist programme, has reservations about his IMF-inspired economic reforms.

The Karama Party and the Popular Socialist Alliance are considering how best to agree on a single, consensus candidate in next year’s election. Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi told journalists a month ago that “there should be one opposition candidate against Al-Sisi next year… more than one will split the vote and guarantee that Al-Sisi is re-elected.”

The Egyptian Social Democratic Party and Dostour are also holding meetings to discuss how best to select an opposition candidate in next year’s presidential election. Currently three opposition figures are being mentioned as possible candidates — lawyer and political activist Khaled Ali, former head of the Central Auditing Agency Hisham Genina, and former ambassador Maasoum Marzouk.

Karama Party Secretary-general Mohamed Bassiouni said in a press interview last week that the Democratic Current alliance, which includes the Dostour, the Popular Socialist, Justice and the Egyptian Social Democratic parties, are coordinating over the selection of an opposition candidate. 

“We have agreed a platform, the Egypt 2018 initiative, and now we are seeking guarantees the election will be held in a free, fair and democratic manner,” says Bassiouni. “We will insist any opposition candidate must have an election platform that reflects the ideals of the 25 January Revolution when it comes to democracy and social justice.”

Bassiouni said there had been no contact with former UN diplomat Mohamed Al-Baradei to sound out whether he would stand.

There have also been hints that former Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh and pro-Brotherhood lawyer Mohamed Selim Al-Awwa might put themselves forward as candidates.

Political parties dominated by former members of the Mubarak-era National Democratic Party (NDP) say they are discussing the possibility of Ahmed Shafik, a 2012 presidential candidate and Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, standing, though his candidacy could face legal obstacles.

Raouf Al-Sayed, deputy chairman of the National Movement Party which includes many former members of the NDP, told journalists that the party is pressing Shafik, who now lives in the United Arab Emirates, to stand as the party’s candidate, but if this proves impossible the party will support Al-Sisi.

Presidential elections are due in May 2018. A law establishing a National Electoral Commission (NEC) to supervise the poll in accordance with articles 208, 209 and 210 of the constitution was approved in June. The NEC’s board will be headed by the Chairman of the Court of Cassation and include senior judges affiliated with the Court of Cassation, the Appeal Court, the State Council, the State Cases Authority and the Administrative Prosecution Authority. Board members will be selected by the Higher Council for Judges and endorsed by the president.

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