Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1369, (16-22 November 2017)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1369, (16-22 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Election groundwork

Presidential hopefuls warm up for the race as President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi prepares a balance sheet of his term in office, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

 

Teams affiliated with the presidency are preparing a report which will itemise the domestic and foreign achievements of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s term in office.

The unwieldly titled “Balance Sheet of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to the Egyptian People on his First Four Years in Office” is expected to be released in December or January.

“It will be published at least a month before the National Electoral Commission [NEC] meets in February to officially open the door for candidates to register for the presidential poll,” a source told Al-Ahram Weekly. “The balance sheet will cover President Al-Sisi’s achievements in fighting terrorism, improving economic conditions, reforming religious discourse, initiating mega development projects, and consolidating Egypt’s regional role.”

Al-Sisi told foreign and local reporters at last week’s World Youth Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh that he intended to present the public with a full account of his time in office. “I will decide whether to run for another term only after I see how the public reacts to my balance sheet,” said Al-Sisi.

In an interview with the American news channel CNBC last week Al-Sisi said he would not remain in office for a single day if it was against the will of the Egyptian people.

Referring to the provision in the 2014 constitution limiting presidential candidates to two four-year terms Al-Sisi said: “I am against amending this provision and will not interfere with it despite the fact the president is able to request parliament to amend any constitutional article.” 

Underlining the point, Al-Sisi told CNBC reporter Hadley Gamble he fully supported the two-term limit. 

“No one can occupy the office of president without the backing of the Egyptian people and in the absence of that backing I would not serve another term,” said Al-Sisi.


Ali

Campaigns urging Al-Sisi to stand in next year’s election 2018 vote are ongoing. “In Order to Build It”, launched in late September, says it has already collected more than three million signatures from members of the public who want Al-Sisi to stand, and of 220 MPs, a third of the total.

MP Karim Salem, the campaign’s spokesperson, says it is telling so many signatures were gathered in such a short time when the government’s economic reforms are regularly assumed to have negatively affected President Al-Sisi’s popularity. The Egyptian Centre for Public Opinion Research (Baseera) reported a few months ago that Al-Sisi’s approval ratings had fallen 14 per cent, with many respondents citing inflation as the main reason they had changed their minds.

Speaking at the World Youth Forum on 7 November Al-Sisi said the government had warned him against rolling out the reform measures in November 2016 “because of their expected grave consequences and the negative impact on my popularity”.

“But I bet instead on the majority of Egyptians understanding the urgent necessity of the reforms.”

Politicians and MPs interviewed by the Weekly say Al-Sisi’s clear rejection of calls to amend the constitution to change the two-term limit put paid to any allegations Al-Sisi would like to stay in power indefinitely.

“Al-Sisi’s statement shows he respects the constitution and is keen to allow the public to form an opinion on his first term in office before he decides whether or not to run,” says MP Mustafa Bakri.

Al-Sisi told CNBC next year’s presidential election will take place in either March or April, while Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marawan told parliament last week the poll would probably be held in April, ahead of the holy month of Ramadan.

Political analysts have welcomed last week’s announcement that opposition figure and leftist lawyer Khaled Ali would contest the poll. At a press conference on 9 November Ali said he would campaign on ensuring greater respect for the constitution, guaranteeing private and public freedoms, fighting terrorism militarily and intellectually and creating a more competitive economy.

Independent MP and political analyst Samir Ghattas thinks “Ali’s decision to run will encourage others to follow suit.”

“We want a competitive poll in which several candidates can run on an equal footing and in a transparent way. A multi-candidate competitive election is the best way to attract voters to the polls and convince them there will be a democratic transfer of power.”

A number of opposition parties say it is too early for them to decide whether or not to endorse Ali.

“Ali has the right to run but we cannot say at the moment if he will get the support of leftist and liberal opposition parties,” said Mohamed Bassiouni, secretary-general of the Karama Party.

Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat is expected to clarify whether or not he will enter the competition within days, say sources. In an interview with the London-based Al-Hayat on 9 November Al-Sadat said “a democratic front for change” will soon be formed to act as an opposition umbrella.

“The front’s agenda will cover the 2018 presidential election, political reform and economic policies,” said Al-Sadat. “It will include the Reform and Development, the Constitution, the Egyptian Social Democratic and Karama parties alongside public figures such as constitutional law professor Abdel-Gelil Mustafa, researcher Ammar Ali Hassan, political activist Mamdouh Hamza and political analyst Hassan Nafaa.”

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