Wednesday,20 September, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1357, (17 - 23 August 2017)
Wednesday,20 September, 2017
Issue 1357, (17 - 23 August 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Canvassing possible candidates

Preparations for Egypt’s 2018 presidential election are underway, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Canvassing possible candidates
Canvassing possible candidates

On 7 August President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi ratified a 36-article law creating the National Electoral Commission (NEC) which will supervise elections and referendums. The NEC will be established as an independent authority with sole responsibility for overseeing general elections and referendums.

“Its duties will range from reviewing national voter lists on a periodic basis and ensuring they are free of irregularities to holding polls and announcing results,” says Article 3 of the new law.

Rami Mohsen, head of the independent National Centre for Parliamentary Consultancies, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “President Al-Sisi’s ratification of the law last week was necessary for the NEC to start working quickly… the constitution states the NEC must begin preparing for the presidential polls at the earliest possible date.”

Next year’s presidential elections are expected before Ramadan begins on 11 May 2018.

“The current presidential term expires on 7 June 2018,” says Mohsen. “The NEC should begin meeting early in February, and the window for candidates to register should open in March. That allows a week to review the list of candidates and a two-week period for campaigning.”
The board of the NEC will be made up of 10 senior judges drawn from the Court of Cassation, the Court of Appeals, the State Council, the State Cases Authority and the Administrative Prosecution Authority.

“Article 209 of the constitution and Article 5 of the new law stipulate NEC board members are to be selected by the Higher Council for Judges [HCJ] and endorsed by the president,” says Mohsen. “Each judicial authority will present the HCJ with two nominees to represent it on the NEC board.”

On 9 August the HCJ announced senior judge Lasheen Ibrahim would head the NEC and Mahmoud Al-Sherif act as his deputy. Ibrahim and Al-Sherif are the most senior judges at the Court of Cassation.

On the same day the Administrative Prosecution Authority announced the names of its two representatives on NEC board — Mohamed Abu Deif Basha and Nadia Al-Shahawi.
Informed sources say the ministers of justice and parliamentary affairs met last week to discuss the logistical and financial support necessary for the NEC to begin its work. “The minister of justice will receive the final list of the NEC’s 10-member board which he will forward to the president for endorsement,” said one source.

Article 6 of the new law states NEC board members are appointed for a single, non-renewable six-year term and must be at least six years below retirement age on appointment.

Preparations for next year’s presidential poll began on 28 July when Prime Minister Sherif Ismail held a meeting with the ministers of justice and parliamentary affairs and a representative of the Finance Ministry to review the steps necessary for the NEC to begin its supervision of the election in accordance with articles 208, 209 and 210 of the constitution. Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marawan told reporters that the location of the NEC’s headquarters and budget are currently being finalised and a secretariat-general would be selected as soon as possible.

The preparations began following the National Youth Conference in Alexandria during which President Al-Sisi urged all Egyptians to cast their votes “to send the world a message that you have freely exercised your will”.
Some political parties seized the comment to announce their support for a second term of office though Al-Sisi has not officially announced that he will be a candidate in next year’s poll.

Parliament’s two largest parties, the Free Egyptians and the Future of Nation, both announced they will back Al-Sisi. The Conference Party, founded by former head of the Arab League Amr Moussa and led by former naval officer Omar Simida, also pledged its support given the “absence of other credible candidates”.

In a statement issued on 29 July the Wafd Party announced it too was backing Al-Sisi for a second term. Several smaller political parties — the Free Constitutional Party, the Conservatives Party, the Guardians of the Future, the Freedom Party and the Ghad — quickly followed suit.

Speculation over the names that will appear on the ballot paper is growing. Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak’s last prime minister and the founder of the National Movement Party, Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, a former Muslim Brotherhood official and head of the Strong Egypt Party, Hamdeen Sabahi, the former head of the Karama Party and lawyer and political activist Khaled Ali are all thought to be assessing their chances.

Hisham Geneina, the former head of the Central Auditing Agency, and former MP and head of the Reform and Development Party Anwar Al-Sadat have been mentioned as possible candidates. Geneina told Al-Ahali newspaper last week that he has no intention of contesting the election while Al-Sadat has refused to either confirm or deny rumours he will stand.

The names of Essam Heggy and Mustafa Hegazi, two advisors to former president Adli Mansour, are also being touted.

Article 142 of the constitution stipulates presidential candidates must first secure the endorsement of a minimum of 20 MPs and 25,000 citizens spread across at least 15 governorates.

Medhat Al-Zahed, spokesman for the Popular Socialist Alliance, told Al-Ahali the alliance hopes the opposition will be able to agree on a single candidate to run against Al-Sisi.

Former presidential candidate Sabahi has long argued opposition groups need to rally behind one candidate to have any chance of unseating Al-Sisi. “In the nation’s best interest I urge all opposition political parties to back a single candidate to run in next year’s presidential elections,” Sabahi said last week.

“More than one opposition candidate will split the vote.”

Some press reports have appeared claiming Sabahi has said he will not stand if a figure such as Khaled Ali or Maasoum Marzouk, a leading official of the Karama Party, decided to run.

Not all self-avowed opposition parties oppose Al-Sisi. The Arab Nasserist Party, for one, backs the incumbent. “Despite growing economic hardship and our reservations over the governments IMF-inspired reforms we still believe Al-Sisi is the best choice,” said head of the Nasserist Party Sayed Abdel-Ghani. “Egypt needs a military leader who can defend the country in a volatile region.”

Refaat Al-Said, the former head of the Tagammu Party, told a symposium in Menoufeya governorate last week that “Al-Sisi saved Egypt from the Muslim Brotherhood regime and for this reason Al-Tagammu supports him for a second term.”

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