Sunday,21 January, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1376, (11-17 January 2018)
Sunday,21 January, 2018
Issue 1376, (11-17 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Seeking viable candidates

Preparations for Egypt’s presidential election move into high gear with hopes still strong more than one candidate will contest the poll, writes Gamal Essam El-Din  

 

Lasheen Ibrahim
Lasheen Ibrahim

At a press conference on Monday the National Electoral Commission’s (NEC) Chairman Lasheen Ibrahim said the presidential election will take place over 26, 27 and 28 March.

Candidates will be able to register between 20 and 29 January at the NEC’s headquarters in downtown Cairo’s Qasr Al-Aini Street.

The final list of presidential candidates will be made public on 23 February, says Ibrahim, and “in the event of a run-off a second vote will be held on 24, 25 and 26 April”, allowing the winner to be announced by 1 May.

“The NEC is keen to ensure integrity and transparency are hallmarks of the coming poll. If we decide to disqualify a candidate we will announce the reasons for doing so in a very transparent way,” said Ibrahim.

“There will be a judge for every ballot box to prevent election irregularities.”

According to Ibrahim, “candidate registration papers will be thoroughly reviewed by the NEC between 1 and 5 February and candidates will be able to file any complaints they have on 7 and 8 February.”

Under the constitution candidates can appeal the NEC’s decisions before the Supreme Administrative Court.

Ibrahim warned “the NEC will not hesitate in taking all legal measures necessary against anyone seeking to tarnish the democratic nature of the poll.”

Ibrahim told Al-Ahram on Monday that “the number of citizens eligible to vote is estimated at 60 million,” and national voting lists are being updated to ensure names of the deceased are removed. No names can be added to the lists following Monday’s announcement of the date of the poll.

Candidates will undergo a mandatory medical check-up.

On Tuesday the NEC sent hundreds of presidential nomination forms to parliament and to public notaries across Egypt to be filled by hopeful candidates. According to Article 142 of the constitution, presidential candidates must secure the recommendation of at least 20 elected MPs or 25,000 eligible voters drawn from a minimum of 15 governorates, with at least 1,000 recommendations per governorate.

Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs on Tuesday that they can only recommend a single candidate and no MP can sign on behalf of another.

By Tuesday 500 out of a total 569 MPs had signed forms backing President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. They include the 370-member Support Egypt parliamentary bloc as well as independent MPs and many of those affiliated with the Wafd Party.

Mohamed Al-Sewidi, head of the Support Egypt bloc and of the General Federation of Egyptian Industries, said “bloc members will strive to urge citizens in their districts to vote for President Al-Sisi”.

Leftist MP Kamal Ahmed told Al-Ahram Weekly that though a number of independent and opposition MPs have also joined the list of Al-Sisi supporters he hopes “the poll will be competitive, with different candidates from different backgrounds joining the race.”

The problem, said Ahmed, is “the lack of figures qualified to contest the presidential poll”.

“Difficult economic and security conditions have made it difficult to find someone who can shoulder the responsibility of ensuring the well-being of the nation. It is for this reason I decided to recommend President Al-Sisi. Simply put, I can see no other option.”

Hopes for a competitive poll received a set-back this week when Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak’s last prime minister and runner up to Mohamed Morsi in 2012, announced he would not be standing. On Sunday Shafik announced: “I would not be the best person to lead state affairs in the coming period and therefore I have decided not to run in the 2018 polls.”

“While I was staying in the United Arab Emirates I announced that I would run. But after second thoughts and after a five-year absence from Egypt it seemed to me that I had misread developments in Egypt.”

Following his return to Egypt early last month Shafik said it would be a great honour to stand in the upcoming poll. “Egypt will not be able to secure any success, be it small or big, without a democratic and civilian government in place that is tolerant of critical views. Egypt needs a real democracy and respect for human rights,” he said.

With the most serious rival to Al-Sisi now out of the running, hopes remain that two or three other candidates — leftist lawyer Khaled Ali, politician Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat, and Nasserist Hamdeen Sabahi — may contest the poll.

At a press conference in November Ali said he wanted to change “the state of depression gripping Egypt” and predicted his political and economic platform would win the trust of all Egyptians. Khaled Al-Balshi, spokesman for Ali’s election campaign, told reporters Tuesday that “the campaign is examining the steps necessary for Ali to contest the poll now the timetable has been made public”.

Al-Sadat, a nephew of late president Anwar Al-Sadat and head of the Reform and Development Party, said in a TV interview that he would only stand if the NEC offers sufficient guarantees the poll will be transparent and all candidates are treated equally.

It is far from clear either Ali or Al-Sadat will be able to command the support of 20 MPs required by the constitution though informed sources say Al-Sadat has recently been canvassing for support.

Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashim Rabie says “it seems that Ali, and also possibly Al-Sadat, may be forced to collect 25,000 signatures from across Egypt, a daunting prospect given both lack a strong, national grassroots organisation.”

Press reports appeared this week saying a number of leftist and liberal parties are coordinating over fielding “an opposition candidate”, with Sabahi being suggested as a likely contender.

Though President Al-Sisi has yet to announce his intentions, the “In order to Build It” campaign claimed last week that it had collected more than 23 million signatures on a petition urging him to run. Al-Sisi told a youth conference last November he would stand only after submitting “a balance sheet of my achievements in office”.

“We know that Al-Sisi will easily be able to collect the recommendations required but it is important that he takes a decision very soon,” says Rabie. “Al-Sisi’s decision could even encourage other figures to join the poll in order that it be competitive rather than a referendum.”

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