Saturday,18 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1368, (9 - 15 November 2017)
Saturday,18 November, 2017
Issue 1368, (9 - 15 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Politics as usual

Opposition forces continue to squabble over who will represent them in next year’s presidential poll, writes Mona El-Nahhas

 

Ali at the press conference on Monday
Ali at the press conference on Monday

During a press conference on Monday at the headquarters of the Dostour Party rights lawyer and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali, 45, announced his intention to stand in next year’s presidential poll.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s four-year term is due to end in June. Although Al-Sisi has not officially announced his decision to stand few commentators expect him not to run for a second term.

“Today we will begin to prepare drafts for an election programme which will then be subjected to wide public discussion,” said Ali. He said he will fight for guarantees the election will be fair and transparent but stressed that mass participation represents the best defence against any attempts to misrepresent the will of the public.

Ali announced his decision without consulting opposition forces. Apart from a visit to the Dostour Party on 31 October, where Ali told party leaders of his decision, no meetings were held.

Dostour Party Chairman Khaled Dawoud said his party had hosted the conference after several hotels and syndicates refused.

“The position of the Dostour Party is to recommend a nominee only after full consultation with party members,” said Dawoud.

Yet even hosting Ali’s conference has caused problems among the Dostour’s febrile ranks. Ahmed Bayoumi, who has ambitions to replace Dawoud as chairman, says holding the conference was “an act of political rashness”.

Why, asks Bayoumi, did Ali not hold the conference at his own Bread and Freedom Party?

“We were keen to convey the message Ali is not just the nominee of the Bread and Freedom Party but enjoys the support of other civil democratic parties,” says Bread and Freedom Party member Akram Ismail.

Reacting to Ali’s announcement the Democratic Current Coalition, of which the Dostour Party is a member, said agreeing on a presidential candidate is not its current priority. Instead, it is focused on formulating a programme that promotes freedoms and social justice and battling for guarantees that the poll will be free, fair and transparent. In the absence of the latter, says Medhat Al-Zahed, chairman of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the coalition may refrain from fielding a candidate at all.

Ali’s declaration met with mixed reactions on social media. Some welcomed the step as akin to throwing a stone in a stagnant pond and wished Ali good luck while others accused him of betraying the opposition and lending legitimacy to a poll the results of which will be settled in advance.

In 2014 Al-Sisi won 96.6 per cent of votes cast. Hamdeen Sabahi, the only other candidate on the ballot paper, was widely attacked for taking part in an unequal battle.

In the 2012 presidential poll Ali got 100,000 votes while Sabahi managed four million, coming third in the race.

In 2014 Ali said he would not run, leaving many to wonder why he has changed his mind this time round.

 “The situation now is totally different,” says Ismail. Political and economic reforms taken by the government have shaken the popularity of the president which alters the whole electoral equation.

Though Ali’s history in defending workers’ rights since the 1990s and the legal battle he waged to prevent the handover of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia have seen his public profile rise.

In September he received a three-month jail term after being found guilty of making an indecent hand gesture. Ali was released on LE1,000 bail pending appeal. He denies the charge, claiming it is an attempt to undermine his political career.

The appeal opened yesterday at the Dokki Misdemeanour Court. If the original sentence is upheld Ali will be ineligible to stand in the election.

The ruling against Ali is not the only obstacle to his nomination. To make it on to the ballot paper candidates must also have the backing of at least 25,000 citizens from at least 15 governorates, with a minimum of 1,000 supporters from each governorate. Alternatively, they could win the backing of no less than 20 MPs.

Ali is the second candidate to declare his intention to stand. Last September Anwar Esmat Al-Sadat, chairman of the Reform and Development Party, said he would seek nomination.

The nomination process for presidential polls is due to start in February. Many of Egypt’s more than 50 political parties are publicly supporting Al-Sisi for a second four-year term while parties representing revolutionary and progressive liberal political forces have yet to make up their minds.

Some political figures have backed Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafik as their preferred candidate.

“A strong candidate enjoying wide public support and capable of dealing with the administrative apparatus because of his military background, Shafik could have a high chance of success,” says political activist Hazem Abdel-Azim.

Shafik, currently residing in the United Arab Emirates, has yet to declare whether he will stand.

On Saturday Al-Shorouk newspaper quoted Raouf Al-Sayed, deputy chairman of the National Movement Party founded by Shafik, saying: “A press conference will be held this month at which Shafik will announce his decision whether or not to stand.”


PRESIDENT Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi told CNBC that he will not seek a third term in office out of respect to the country’s constitution which permits its leaders to serve only two four-year terms.

“It doesn’t suit me as a president to stay one more day against the will of the Egyptians. This is not talk for TV, those are principles I embrace and am keen on,” he told CNBC over the weekend.

“We will not interfere with [the constitution],” Al-Sisi said. “I am with preserving two four-year terms.”

Al-Sisi also said that elections in Egypt will be held in March or April 2018. He did not directly say whether he intended to run in the anticipated vote.

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