Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1378, (25 -31 January 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1378, (25 -31 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Election surprises

Candidates seeking to contest the presidential poll have until Monday to register with hopes that more than one candidate will contest the poll, writes Gamal Essam El-Din  


 National Elections Commission (NEC)
National Elections Commission (NEC)

On Monday 29 January the National Elections Commission (NEC) will stop accepting applications from candidates seeking to stand in the presidential election, scheduled between 26 and 28 March. Commission spokesperson Mahmoud Al-Sherif said Tuesday it had not received any candidacy submissions since the registration period opened on 20 January.

Yet around one million endorsements have been submitted by citizens nationwide, supporting 23 potential candidates, said Al-Sherif. “Whatever happens, the NEC is prepared to announce a preliminary list of candidates on 31 January.”

The one name guaranteed to be on the ballot paper is that of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. He may not have officially registered yet but he has received hundreds of thousands of endorsements from citizens across Egypt and has the support of 546 MPs.

It was only on Friday Al-Sisi announced he was putting himself forward as a candidate. On Tuesday he undertook the medical examination required of all candidates.

Al-Sisi used the announcement of his standing to urge people to vote “and send a positive message about Egypt to the outside world”.

“I will not allow corrupt people to rule Egypt because God will question me on this,” he said.

“I know these corrupt people, but I hope there will be good candidates you can choose from because Egypt is so dear and we should not allow corrupt people to hold its reins.”

The campaign of Sami Anan, the former chief of staff who announced his own candidacy early Sunday, was effectively closed on Tuesday when the Armed Forces issued a statement saying Anan was being interrogated over a series of “violations and crimes”. The army said Anan “decided to run without getting a prior licence from the army, committed the crime of forgery by adding his name to voter lists, and incited against the army while announcing his candidacy”.

“Anan’s candidacy announcement amounts to incitement against the army, with the objective of driving a wedge between the Armed Forces and the people,” said a military spokesman. “The Armed Forces will not tolerate Anan’s blatant legal violations which constitute a serious breach of the regulations governing the service of officers affiliated with the Armed Forces.”

Khairat Barakat, a former advisor to the minister of defence, said in a TV interview on Monday night that “Anan is still on military reserve lists since 2011 and should have cleared himself first from service in the Armed Forces before submitting a presidential bid.”

“As long as he is on a reserve list he cannot constitutionally stand as a candidate,” said Barakat. “Army people who want to participate in political life must first resign from office — as President Al-Sisi did in 2014.”

Barakat said military laws stipulate that army officers still on a military reserve list are the same like active-duty officers and both can be called up by the army at any time for national security reasons.

In announcing his intention to stand Anan said he was running in order to improve the living conditions of all Egyptians and correct mistaken policies. Anan served as the army’s chief of staff under Hosni Mubarak and was removed from office by Mohamed Morsi in the summer of 2012. Press reports had appeared claiming Anan was banking on the support of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Though possible candidate Khaled Ali told reporters on Tuesday that he was steadily moving towards the 25,000 endorsements required of candidates, later in the same day his campaign announced that, in light of Anan’s arrest, it would reconsider the situation. A public announcement was expected on Wednesday.

Earlier Ali’s spokesman Amr Abdel-Rahman had said in a TV interview that Ali’s campaign was going well. Though Ali had received the endorsement of the Dostour, Egyptian Social Democratic and Karama parties, and from former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, Abdel-Rahman said leftist MPs affiliated with the parliamentary 25-30 bloc had not committed to supporting him.

Al-Ahram political analyst Hassan Abu Taleb told Al-Ahram Weekly “there are still hopes that the poll will be competitive.”

“We should wait until the last moment and refrain from issuing early judgements,” he said.

Political science professor and independent MP Gamal Zahran agrees. “Campaigns supporting President Al-Sisi reflect his popularity but there should be some kind of competitiveness or the poll will turn into a referendum,” said Zahran.

In press conferences this week the NEC repeatedly stressed the poll will be transparent. On Tuesday NEC head Lasheen Ibrahim held a meeting with a delegation from the US Embassy, and with the Mexican ambassador to Egypt.

“Judge Ibrahim was keen to stress during the meetings that the NEC is an independent authority and has sole responsibility for supervising presidential elections in Egypt,” said Al-Sherif. “Ibrahim told the delegation that candidates can appeal NEC’s orders and decisions before the Supreme Administrative Court.”

The NEC is currently preparing a list of judges who will be responsible for supervising the ballot. The election, said Al-Sherif, is likely to cost LE1 billion.

Alaa Abed, head of parliament’s Human Rights Committee, told the Weekly the committee will supervise the performance of NGOs and civil society organisations monitoring the poll.

“I agreed with committee members affiliated with the majority, opposition and independent blocs that sub-committees should be formed to take charge of supervising the performance of all NGOs and civil society organisations licensed by the NEC to monitor the ballot,” said Abed. “We have documents that show some NGOs seeking to monitor the poll aim to convey a negative image about Egypt to the outside world in return for the foreign money they receive,” claimed Abed.

“The Human Rights Committee is authorised by the constitution and the new NGO law to oversee the performance of these suspect NGOs.”

“The committee is also keen to ensure state authorities completely abide by the law and the constitution throughout all stages of the upcoming election,” said Abed. “We are confident the poll will be characterised by integrity and transparency and convey an honourable picture of political conditions in Egypt.”

At a press conference on Tuesday Al-Sherif said the NEC had issued 10 regulations for media outlets interested in conducting opinion polls during the election.

“Standard procedures will be followed. The name of the entity which conducted the poll, the name of the poll’s funders, the method used in conducting the poll, the questions directed and the means of collecting data must be clearly stated,” said Al-Sherif.

The government has said it will do everything it can to help Egyptians living abroad vote in the coming poll.

Minister of Immigration and Expatriate Affairs Nabila Makram Ebeid said at a press conference Monday that all expatriates will be allowed to cast their votes scheduled for 16-18 March as long as they have a valid passport or identity card.

“All Egyptian expatriates must bring their national identification card and passports and head to vote at Egyptian embassies and consulates in their host countries on voting days,” said Ebeid.

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