Sunday,24 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1365, (19 - 25 October 2017)
Sunday,24 February, 2019
Issue 1365, (19 - 25 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Early presidential campaign

While a campaign in favour of re-electing President Al-Sisi to another term kicked off this week, many wonder why opposition parties have so far failed to prepare for the elections, reports Gamal Essam El-Din


Early presidential campaign
Early presidential campaign

A campaign backing the re-election of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi kicked off this week. The campaign, which goes by the name “In Order to Build it”, is being orchestrated by the 353-member pro-government Support Egypt parliamentary bloc and a number of political parties such as the Free Egyptians Party and the Future of Homeland Party. Al-Wafd, the long-standing opposition party, also joined the campaign.

“The campaign aims to collect millions of signatures from citizens in all governorates on a petition urging President Al-Sisi to run in next year’s election for another four-year term,” Karim Salem, the campaign’s spokesman, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The campaign kicked off on 2 October after Egypt’s national football team qualified for Russia’s 2018 World Cup after a 27-year wait, Salem, an MP and professor of administration and public policies, said. “On that happy day, we collected thousands of signatures from citizens who came to Alexandria’s Borg Al-Arab Stadium to attend the final qualifying match in which Egypt defeated Congo 2-1,” Salem said.

Al-Sisi has not officially said he will be standing for re-election. On several occasions he has said he will run “only if that is the will of the people”.

Salem indicated that the national flag sits atop Al-Sisi’s re-election petition paper, followed by five lines which read, “In order to rid it [Egypt] of terrorism, in order to maintain our leadership, in order to complete our projects, in order to educate our children, in order to wipe out corruption, I the undersigned declare my support for requesting the President of the Republic Abdel-Fattah Said Hussein Khalil Al-Sisi to stand for another presidential term.”

According to Salem, the campaign has so far been able to collect the signatures of 170 MPs and thousands of citizens. “We have established offices in 13 governorates until now and we will soon have offices in the remainder to collect more endorsements,” Salem said.

It is widely believed that the Support Egypt parliamentary bloc, led by businessman and head of the Federation of Egyptian Industries Mohamed Al-Sewidi, is responsible for funding the pro-Sisi re-election campaign.

The campaign has also been able in one week to collect hundreds of signatures from a large number of public figures, including high-profile football players, actors, actresses and media personalities.

But while supporters of Al-Sisi have begun a campaign for his re-election next year, many wonder why opposition political parties have so far kept silent on the issue. Political analysts say they are afraid that if opposition parties fail to field a candidate, the 2018 poll might become a referendum rather than a competitive multi-candidate election.

In a recent article in the daily Al-Ahram, political analyst Makram Mohamed Ahmed said he has no doubt that Al-Sisi will run for a second four-year term. “But this is not the problem,” Ahmed said. “The real problem is that no political parties have so far shown interest in fielding candidates against Al-Sisi. They might believe that the result of the polls looks like a foregone conclusion and so they prefer not to field a candidate.”

Ahmed, however, expects that “some public figures might compete against Al-Sisi but only for ‘propaganda’ goals. They could take this step even if they know that their chances of winning will be very limited.”

Ahmed lamented that “while political parties prepared well for parliamentary elections in 2015, they were not serious enough in grooming figures qualified enough to contest the 2018 presidential election.” He asked why these political parties “were not able to build on this year’s harsh economic policies which have negatively affected President Al-Sisi’s popularity to groom a presidential candidate with a different agenda for the 2018 elections”.

Most political parties with MPs in parliament will not field candidates in next year’s presidential election, believes Ashraf Rashad, head of the Future of Homeland Party. Rashad told the Weekly, “They will do this out of respect for President Al-Sisi and his great achievements over four years in office. In fact, we believe that instead of fielding candidates, we agree that we should rather pave the way for President Al-Sisi to be re-elected in order to complete implementing his programme during another four-year term.”

“Political parties do not have prominent figures who could achieve victory in a presidential election,” said Rashad. “Most of our political parties are new, with not enough experience or financial means to contest as costly a poll as a presidential election.”

Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat, leader of the Reform and Development Party, believes that “many opposition figures want to run but they have doubts that state authorities will take a neutral position during the poll. These figures will wait and see how the National Electoral Commission [NEC], which will take charge of supervising the 2018 poll, will give guarantees that the election will be fair and transparent,” said Al-Sadat, adding that he will run only after he and others get the necessary assurances of impartiality from the NEC.

But will political parties, which have always been critical of President Al-Sisi such as the Egyptian Social Democratic, Al-Dostour, Dignity and Justice parties act differently?

Leaders of these parties announced some months ago they were coordinating to field one opposition candidate. But there has been no further news on this front.

Amr Hashem Rabie, a political analyst with Al-Ahram, still has high hopes that opposition parties will be able to field more than one candidate or at least agree on one single candidate. “Although we know that these parties suffer from deep internal rifts and serious financial problems, I hope they take the issue of fielding an opposition presidential candidate as a top priority at present,” said Rabie, adding that “it is very important to push democracy in Egypt forward and to see a competitive presidential ballot in 2018 instead of holding a referendum.”

Ahmed has high hopes that as the date of the presidential elections nears, there would be a greater chance that public figures decide to run. “I think those who announced very early that they would not run might in the end choose to stand in order to give the poll a competitive edge and ensure that there will be a high turnout.”

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