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Sunday, 20 May 2018

Egypt's 2018 presidential elections: On the campaign trail

Rallies for the two presidential candidates Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Moussa Mustafa Moussa were held this week

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 8 Mar 2018
Posters of candidates
Posters of Egypt's presidential candidates Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Mousa Mostafa Mousa (L) for the upcoming election seen in Downtown, Cairo, Egypt March 1, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)
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Moussa Mustafa Moussa, the head of the Ghad Party, held a large rally at the party’s headquarters in Downtown Cairo attended by supporters and leaders of the Union of Arab Tribes, the only organisation to publicly announce its support for Moussa.

Ahmed Nassar, Moussa’s spokesperson, says campaigning is mainly focused on Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities. “We are using our provincial offices to host our rallies,” said Nassar. “And we plan a major public rally the day before campaigning ends on 24 March.”

Moussa said the decision to limit campaigning to major cities was due to the high costs of staging public rallies. “Everybody knows I have very restricted funds,” he said.

Adel Esmat, Moussa’s campaign spokesperson, said Monday’s march, which covered downtown Cairo and neighbouring districts, was the first of its kind. “It lasted for four hours, managing to attract a lot of audience and interest,” said Esmat.

Moussa’s election platform was modified Saturday to stress the importance of reforming religious discourse.

“The Ghad Party believes reforming religious discourse must include regulating Friday sermons and prayers,” said Esmat.

“Clerics delivering Friday sermons tend to mix religion with politics, manipulating religion in line with whatever ideology they profess. The Ministry of Religious Endowments should move to stop this.”

In addition to public rallies, billboards featuring Moussa appeared in Cairo’s streets this week. At Tahrir Square and in downtown Cairo some buildings are festooned with giant pro-Moussa placards and billboards.

Al-Sisi’s campaign continued to receive wide-scale support from political parties, MPs and volunteers.

The Free Egyptians Party led by Essam Khalil told Al-Ahram Weekly the party will step up its pro-Sisi activities throughout the coming 20 days.

“We plan to hold rallies across the Delta and in Upper Egypt to drum up support for Al-Sisi,” said Khalil. “During rallies we plan to distribute thousands of flyers, leaflets and CDs featuring the achievements of Al-Sisi in his first four-year term.”

“The party’s Media Committee is currently responding to Western media outlets, particularly in the US and UK, which are targeting Egypt’s presidential election, and anti-Sisi Arab satellite channels broadcasting from London and Doha,” said Khalil.

“The party also plans to sue London-based Amnesty International which issued a statement highly critical of the election process.”

“I think the decision of most political parties, including the Wafd and Nour, to support Al-Sisi reflects the majority of the public who believe they need another four years of stability and economic development,” said Khalil. “This is what Western media circles do not want to understand.”

Khalil told the Weekly pro-Sisi rallies will be also used to mobilise citizens to vote in the coming poll.

The Wafd Party has also joined the pro-Sisi campaign. Deputy Chairman Bahaaeddin Abu Shoka said “the party is preparing a massive public rally at its headquarters in Dokki.”

“The heads of most of Egypt’s political parties, professional syndicates and trade unions will be invited to address citizens at the conference. The rally, which we hope will be aired live on TV, will urge citizens to turn out and vote.”

The Wafd Party is a major sponsor of the pro-Sisi campaign Egypt First...Turn out… Participate and Vote. “Yes we are an opposition party, but given current economic and security conditions we have chosen to support President Al-Sisi to continue his policy of reforms,” say Yasser Qoura, the Wafd Party’s assistant chairman.

The Salafist Nour is also mobilising in support of Al-Sisi.

“President Al-Sisi has become a symbol of stability,” argued Younis Makhioun, head of the Nour Party.

Nour’s Deputy Chairman Galal Al-Morra told a public rally in Menoufiya on Sunday that “there is a wide-scale belief among citizens that voting for President Al-Sisi is necessary to ensure the country remains stable and grows economically.

It is not a question of a personality cult as some Western media outlets claim but a matter of strategic importance, concerning national security and the future of the nation.”

The Future of the Homeland Party has also intensified its pro-Sisi endorsements, holding 14 rallies that attracted thousands of citizens in 16 governorates. The party holds 50 seats in parliament.

Another pro-Sisi campaign, All With You For The Sake of Egypt, held dozens of conferences and has undertaken door-to-door canvassing in rural areas and small villages.

Mohamed Abu Shoka, spokesman of Al-Sisi’s official election campaign Long Live Egypt, announced in a press conference that four political parties and four public campaigns have already merged with Al-Sisi’s official campaign.

“The four pro-Sisi public campaigns are In Order to Build it, We Are All with You, For the Sake of Egypt and Women Support the President.”

The majority Support Egypt parliamentary bloc led by businessman and MP Mohamed Al-Sewidi has been busy drumming up support for Al-Sisi.

In Cairo’s 6 October City it organised a major public rally in cooperation with the industrial city’s investors and businessmen. Addressing the rally on 27 February Al-Sewidi said there is a real consensus that Al-Sisi is the only person capable of leading Egypt in the coming stage.

Al-Sewidi praised the president’s November 2016 decision to float the Egyptian pound, saying that the move was necessary to wean the country from its dependency on imports.

The Support Egypt bloc comprises 11 political parties including the Free Egyptians, Future of the Homeland and the Guardians of the Nation parties, as well as independent MPs. The coalition holds more than 370 of parliament’s 596 seats.

President Al-Sisi, whose current term ends in June, won the 2014 presidential elections with 97 per cent of the vote. Egypt’s presidential poll is scheduled for 26 to 28 March.

*This story was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly 

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