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Egyptian politicians move to disrupt election boycott calls

In response to boycott calls seven political parties vow to persuade citizens to turn out and vote in the upcoming presidential election

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 15 Feb 2018
Akmal Qortam,
Akmal Qortam, head of the Conservatives Party (Photo: Al-Ahram)
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The chairmen of seven political parties launched a campaign on Monday that seeks to mobilise the public to vote in the presidential election, scheduled for 26-28 March.

In a statement issued following a meeting at the Wafd Party’s headquarters on 11 February political leaders said “a central operation room” will be formed in order to mobilise citizens in all governorates to cast their ballots.

Yasser Qoura, assistant secretary-general of the Wafd Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the operation room will start work next week. “The campaign is a response to those who are calling for a boycott. We want as many citizens as possible to participate and vote,” he said.

A coalition of leftist and liberal opposition parties affiliated with the Civic Democratic Forum (CDM) urged citizens in a press conference on 30 January to boycott the poll on the grounds the elction has already fallen short of democratic norms.

Qoura claims the boycott calls undermine Egypt’s national interests.

“Even if some people believe the result of the poll is a foregone conclusion this is no reason to call for a boycott,” said Qoura. “A high turnout will send the message that the public supports the transitional political process and the war against terror.”

Qoura, however, revealed that the seven political parties also intend to submit a list of demands to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, foremost among them that Article 5 of the constitution be implemented.

“This article states that Egypt’s political system is based on political diversity and the peaceful rotation of power,” said Qoura. “We hope that if President Al-Sisi wins he will work closely with political parties towards activating this article.”

Akmal Qortam, head of the Conservatives Party, told the Weekly that unlike the CDM the political parties attending the meeting at the Wafd Party’s headquarters believe everyone must stand behind the country’s political leadership at this critical stage.

“We think boycott calls could easily serve foreign agendas targeting the stability of Egypt,” he said.

Qortam revealed public rallies are being planned in all governorates to urge citizens to vote, as well as televised forums to alert citizens to the dangers posed by a boycott on national security and democratic transition.

The Egyptian National Movement (ENM), a political party founded by former prime minister Ahmed Shafik, has joined in the condemnation of boycott calls. The party issued a statement on 8 February saying that since Shafik had decided not to contest the poll the party would be supporting the re-election of President Al-Sisi.

“We call upon citizens not to listen to boycott calls and instead be keen to vote because this is a national right they must exercise,” read the statement.

On 2 February the National Electoral Commission (NEC) announced that two candidates will appear on the ballot paper —incumbent President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi who is seeking a second four-year term, and head of the Ghad Party Moussa Mustafa Moussa.

Some professors of constitutional law and high-profile lawyers have also condemned the calls to boycott the election. Alexandria University’s constitutional law professor Samir Sabri said “those who issue boycott calls know that they are urging citizens to violate the constitution and law.”

“The constitution states that national polls are part of the country’s political system and the Penal Code states anyone making calls that might harm the public interest should be prosecuted,” said Sabri.

Mamdouh Maged, a professor of constitutional law at the Police Academy, told the daily Al-Ahram that “Egypt’s Presidential Election Law [22/2014] stipulates in Article 43 a fine of between LE2,000 and LE5,000 for anyone who fails to vote without a valid reason.”

On 31 January Tarek Mahmoud, a lawyer from Alexandria, filed a petition against politicians who had called for a boycott on the grounds their demand “represents a coup against the constitution”.

The Ghad candidate Moussa said this week if he wins he will place CDM officials on trial for treason.

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