Monday,23 April, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1378, (25 -31 January 2018)
Monday,23 April, 2018
Issue 1378, (25 -31 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

To run or not

Potential presidential candidate Khaled Ali is yet to decide on whether he will run in the elections, writes Ahmed Morsy


To run or not
To run or not

Until Monday the struggle for endorsements was the real battle for potential presidential candidate Khaled Ali. However, the turn of events on Tuesday with the arrest of former military chief of staff Sami Anan, Ali is rethinking his bid. Until Al-Ahram Weekly went to print on Tuesday evening, he was scheduled to hold a press conference on Wednesday to give his final say.

Abdel-Rahman, spokesperson for Ali, told the Weekly that Ali’s campaign should be in a position to submit the required 25,000 endorsements on Saturday.

Presidential hopefuls are required to collect 25,000 endorsements — to be submitted to the National Elections Commission by 29 January — with a minimum of 1,000 each from 15 of Egypt’s 27 governorates. Alternatively, they can be endorsed by 20 elected MPs.

The third presidential election since Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February 2011 will be held from 26 to 28 March.

Out of 593 MPs 546 have already announced their backing for President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

“Ali has not received any parliamentary recommendations,” says Abdel-Rahman, meaning the campaign is dependent on the endorsement of members of the public, “but our supporters face intimidation when they try to submit them.”

In one governorate 400 endorsement forms mysteriously went astray after someone claiming to be a representative from Ali’s campaign collected them from citizens in front of the notary’s office.

Ahmed Amin, 32, who signed for Ali at Nasr City’s Real Estate Proclamation and Notarisation office, says it took an hour simply to obtain the form.

Maher Mahgoub, 60, signed for Ali at the notarisation office in New Cairo’s Fifth Settlement. “We need youthful figures to replace current leaders,” Mahgoub told the Weekly. His support for Ali, Mahgoub says, is not necessarily that Al-Sisi is bad but because new blood and new ways of doing things are needed.

Azza Ezzeddin, Mahgoub’s wife, supports Ali because she believes he will uphold the rights of poorer citizens.

Ali mustered a great deal of public support when he filed, and then won, a lawsuit against the transfer of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia, a verdict that was eventually overturned by parliament. He has also fought for workers’ rights and in 2010 launched a case that secured a higher minimum wage for workers.

Ali, 45, was born in the village of Meet Yaeesh in Daqahliya governorate. He graduated with a law degree from Zagazig University in 1995 to become a fierce anti-corruption lawyer, fighting for labour rights and social justice and in 2009 founded the Egyptian Centre for Social and Economic Rights.

Ali declared his intention to stand as a candidate at a press conference on 11 January, calling on his supporters to collect endorsements to support his bid.

But even if he does manage to collect the necessary number of signatures there is no certainty he will be able to compete. The fate of his campaign will then be dependent on the final verdict in his appeal against a three-month jail sentence which he received on 3 January after being found guilty of making an “obscene hand gesture” during a demonstration outside the State Council’s headquarters in January 2017. If the guilty verdict is upheld he will automatically be disqualified from the presidential race.

Ali was a candidate in the first round of the 2012 elections, coming seventh of 13 candidates with 134,056 votes. 

“A number of political movements and parties, including the Bread and Freedom Party and Dostour, came to the conclusion that civil political forces should contest the election, says Abdel-Rahman, adding Ali’s candidacy emerged as a kind of collective decision.

“We are witnessing deteriorating economic conditions and a confiscation of the public sphere under emergency laws,” says the presidential hopeful. “Civil political forces need to advance, break the barrier of fear and present themselves to the people as an alternative to the ruling regime.”

If elected Ali says he will cancel the maritime border agreement under which the islands of Tiran and Sanafir were transferred to Saudi Arabia. He will also cancel the declaration of principles signed between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia which he says fails to protect Egypt’s historic share of Nile water.

“I will also take international legal action to halt construction of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam. The River Nile is not some luxury the Egyptian people can easily give up,” he says.

“I am a leftist, part of the social democratic movement and disagree politically, intellectually and culturally with political Islam,” says Ali. He adds that throughout his life he has opposed torture and unfair trials, and will continue to do so regardless of the political affiliations of the victims. “Preserving the rights of the people is a step for preserving the community,” he said.

“The 2014 constitution stipulated the necessity of transitional justice which is an entry point for national reconciliation, and this is what we hope for,” he says. “Real transitional justice involves truth regardless of political affiliation.”

And should he lose, says Ali, it will not be the end of the world. He will continue his activist work “to improve the public and political sphere”.

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