Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1379, (1 -7 February 2018)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1379, (1 -7 February 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Presidential elections on track

Two candidates will contest Egypt’s upcoming presidential elections, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Presidential elections on track

When the door for candidate registration for Egypt’s presidential elections closed on 2pm Monday, only two hopefuls submitted applications: the incumbent President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi who is running for a second four-year term, and head of the liberal Ghad (Tomorrow) Party Moussa Mustafa Moussa.

Just half an hour before the door closed on 29 January, Moussa surprised all by submitting his candidacy papers to the National Electoral Commission (NEC), responsible for supervising the presidential poll.

NEC Spokesman Mahmoud Al-Sherif said a preliminary list of potential candidates would be published on Wednesday, while the final list is scheduled to be announced on 24 February.

Moussa took everybody by surprise again when he told reporters that he was able to collect 48,000 endorsements from all governorates across Egypt, as well as recommendations from 27 MPs. “I did this in a quiet manner and without any media fanfare,” said Moussa.

Presidential hopefuls must submit at least 25,000 endorsements from citizens across 15 governorates, or 20 endorsements from members of parliament, to qualify as candidates. The news that Moussa would register came on Sunday after taking a medical check-up required for presidential candidates. Moussa, 66, is an engineer who joined political life in 2005 when he was appointed deputy head of the Ghad which was founded by Ayman Nour in 2004.

Moussa dissented from the Ghad at the end of 2005, then returned as chairman of the party after the ousting of Nour from its leadership. Moussa’s father, Mustafa Moussa, who says his son has a BSc in architectural engineering from France, was a member in Egypt’s parliament in the pre-1952 royal age.

The Ghad contested the 2015 parliamentary elections in an alliance with the Congress Party, getting three seats.

Moussa told reporters, “I am not a ‘décor’ or figurehead candidate. The party has a vision and proposals which it will present to the Egyptian people in an integral competition.”

Moussa indicated that the party had decided to field a presidential candidate only after former prime minister Ahmed Shafik decided to withdraw from the race and after former chief of staff Sami Anan was disqualified. “We will contest the poll not as a favour to anyone or to accept favours from anyone,” said Moussa, adding that “we do not seek artificial popularity. We want a real competition for the sake of only Egypt.”

“The fact that I am head of the Egyptian Council of Arabian Tribes helped me to get more than enough endorsements. We have 450 offices in 26 governorates and this helped us to collect more than 45,000 endorsements from citizens, not to mention that we also collected ‘recommendation signatures’ from 27 MPs,” Moussa said.

“When Shafik and Anan announced at first that they would contest the poll, the Ghad Party said it would not field a candidate and would rather support President Al-Sisi,” Moussa said. “But after most failed to register, we decided to join the race in order to give a much-needed touch of competition,” said Moussa.

“We know that many in the foreign media plan a hostile campaign to tarnish the image of Egypt,” said Moussa, arguing that “the campaign began with US Senator John McCain launching attacks against the election process and as a result we found that the best response to these attacks is to run in the upcoming poll so that we do not give them the chance to describe the process as a referendum”. 

“I am serious and I will announce the party’s platform, including my project for the first 100 days in power — helping young people to have their own projects,” said Moussa, adding that he plans to give every young man LE15,000 for a small-scale project. According to Moussa, “the role of political parties is to compete in order to reach power and take office”.

Samir Ghattas, a political analyst and an independent MP, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “it is really good that the presidential ballot will see some competition at last. This will give a degree of credibility to the political process and offer Egyptians a chance to see two candidates with different programmes,” said Ghattas, adding that “there were hopes that at least four candidates from different ideological backgrounds would be able to contest, but it seems that the constitutional and financial requirements of the poll are still beyond the capacity of most political figures.”  

Moussa’s decision came after four high-profile hopefuls failed to register. The latest was head of the long-standing liberal party Wafd, businessman Al-Sayed Al-Badawi.

Presidential elections on track

The Wafd’s Higher Council voted on 27 January against Al-Badawi contesting the presidential poll. The party’s 45-member Higher Council reached the decision via a secret ballot in a closed session on Saturday.

The Wafd said at a press conference that members chose to support President Al-Sisi for a second term. “President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi managed to maintain the stability of the nation, and no one can face the challenges in Egypt except him. Therefore our decision comes from a popular desire and a wish by the Wafd not to participate in the upcoming presidential elections,” Hani Sarieddin, a member of the Wafd’s Higher Council, told reporters. 

Al-Badawi’s assistant Yasser Al-Hodeibi also told the media that the Wafd rejects all forms of external interference in the internal affairs of Egypt, and calls on Egyptians to actively participate in the elections.

Khaled Ali, a leftist lawyer, also announced that he would not run. Ali said at a press conference on 24 January that his decision came after what he described as an “absence of any possibilities for competition.

“It was a difficult and bitter decision which I reached following consultations with campaign members and supporters,” Ali said. He claimed that several serious violations took place during the nomination phase of the electoral process, including what he claimed was the theft of his nomination endorsements, adding, “there was a lack of cooperation from the NEC in sharing with me the total number of endorsements collected.”

In response, the NEC said “what Ali said was wrong. It is up to the candidate himself or his legal representative to submit the endorsement forms to the commission,” said the NEC, noting that “it has an automated system that links all public notaries and real estate registration offices that are mandated with issuing forms of endorsements. This automated system states the numerical enumeration of potential candidates who received endorsements across Egypt as well as the number of citizens who released forms of endorsement.”

The NEC also announced that Anan’s name was removed on 23 January from the country’s national voter list on the grounds that Anan is still a member of the Armed Forces whose personnel are barred from exercising political activities.

The NEC said in its statement that lawyer Amr Abdel-Razek submitted to the authority documents showing that Anan was still a member of the Armed Forces, after which a committee was formed to review the documents. “It has been proven to the committee… that Lieutenant General on call Sami Anan is still in the military service,” said the NEC statement.

Anan’s removal from the registry came hours after the military said it was investigating Anan for breaching the laws of military service by running for office before ending his service and without seeking the army’s permission.

Gamal Zahran, a political analyst, told the Weekly that Anan made a big mistake. “We were all surprised when he appointed two Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers — former auditor Hisham Geneina and Cairo University professor Hazem Hosni — as top members of his election campaign,” said Zahran, adding that “in doing so, Anan sent a message to every Egyptian that if he won, he would bring the Muslim Brotherhood back to political life. This could be a very dangerous development not just for the army but for all Egyptians who revolted in 2013 to get rid of this group.”

Zahran also argued that Ali withdrew “because he was clearly not able to collect the required number of endorsements (25,000 signatures). Even the leftist 25-30 group of MPs in parliament refused to give him endorsements,” said Zahran, “but instead of admitting his very limited popularity on the street, Ali chose to withdraw in a theatrical way to embarrass the ruling regime and give the foreign media a chance to attack the election process.”  

Ali, a former candidate in the 2012 presidential elections, also said that the nine-day timetable set for gathering endorsements required for nomination — between 20 and 29 January — was “unfairly short”. 

On 24 January President Al-Sisi submitted his candidacy documents as well as his endorsement forms to the NEC.

Mohamed Abu Shoka, Al-Sisi’s campaign spokesman, said Al-Sisi gathered 173,000 endorsements from citizens across Egypt, as well as recommendations from as many as 549 MPs.

Abu Shoka said the funding of Al-Sisi’s campaign will be very limited.

On 28 January the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party — with 11 MPs in parliament — announced that it decided to back Al-Sisi’s presidential bid. Younis Makhioun, head of the Salafist group, said the decision to retain the party’s support for Al-Sisi was foremost to achieve cooperation between all state institutions to realise stability, sparing the country from danger. Makhioun called on the party members to participate in the upcoming elections.

There is a concern about voter indifference. Pro- Sisi supporters said they plan a huge turnout that will lead to a resounding victory for the president. “We plan to give a hard lesson to all of those who urge citizens to boycott the poll,” said MP and businessman Farag Amer. He described the boycott calls issued by opposition figures, like Islamist and former member of the Muslim Brotherhood Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh and leftist political parties, “provocative and will receive a harsh response from the Egyptian people on voting days.”

Amer, an Alexandria businessman, said a demonstration including half a million people will flood Alexandria’s streets on Friday in support of President Al-Sisi. “I said we will give a hard lesson to those who call for a boycott,” said Amer.

A group of leftist and liberal political parties said the poll will be lacklustre, with a preordained outcome. “We urge citizens not to participate in this election farce,” said Medhat Al-Zahed, head of the Popular Alliance Party.

Hassan Abu Taleb, an Al-Ahram political analyst, said that fears were great that the election campaign would be lifeless. “But now with two candidates in competition, I think this will generate some excitement that could appeal to citizens to turn out in large numbers to vote,” said Abu Taleb.

The NEC announced on Saturday that so far 57 NGOs have received approval to monitor the elections. The organisations that have received approvals comprise 48 local and nine international NGOs, in addition to the National Council for Human Rights and the National Council for Women. 

The NEC will continue reviewing requests by NGOs to monitor the elections, with approval codes to be issued for the delegates of approved NGOs before the start of February.

According to the timetable, there will be a two-day period for appeals. The NEC will declare its rulings on any appeals on 9 February. 

For 10 days, from 12 to 21 February, the High Administrative Court will look into any appeals and issue verdicts, to be published in Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar newspapers.

On 24 February the NEC will announce the final list of those who qualify as candidates.

On the same day, presidential campaigns will officially kick off. Campaigning is permitted for 11 days outside the country (until 13 March) and for 28 days in Egypt (until 23 March). 

Candidates have until 1 March to declare their withdrawal from the race.  

Candidates will suspend campaign activities in Egypt starting 24 March. The first round of voting will take place from 26 to 28 March. Polling stations will be open from 9am to 9pm.

If no run-off is required — with one candidate receiving 51 per cent or more of the vote — the winner will be announced on 2 April.

If a run-off is required, a second round of voting will be held from 19 to 21 April for Egyptian expatriates, and 24 to 26 April for voters in Egypt.

The final results of the run-off and the winner will be announced on 1 May.

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