Most Egyptian political groups have declared their support for one of the only two candidates contesting the upcoming presidential elections: former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and longtime Nasserist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who finished third in Egypt's 2012 presidential poll.
While projections so far are in favour of El-Sisi, whose popularity soared after he led the move to oust former Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against him in 2013, parties and movements are nevertheless divided between both presidential hopefuls.
Some groups have also chosen to refrain from taking any position – leaving their members free to choose – while others have decided to boycott the vote.
Ahram Online provides its readers with a breakdown of which candidate prominent groups are supporting and why:
The Wafd Party: Egypt's oldest liberal party, the Wafd Party, announced it would back El-Sisi in April. Explaining why, the party's president El-Sayyed El-Badawi said El-Sisi will safeguard and implement the Egyptian constitution, respect human rights and fulfill the demands of Egyptian citizens.
The Free Egyptians Party: Egypt's liberal Free Egyptians Party, founded by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris in 2011, declared its support for Sisi at the end of April. After a vote by its high committee, the party said the reasons for its choice included El-Sisi's "heroic" role in his intervention against Morsi, his ability to fight terrorism, his regional and international influence and capacity to face Egypt's multi-faceted crisis. The party stressed that Egypt needs a strong leader such as El-Sisi during the current circumstances.
The Nour Party: The Salafist Nour Party, formerly aligned with the Brotherhood on several political issues before and during the latter's year in power, said after an internal vote in May that it would support El-Sisi's presidential bid. The party's president Younes Makhyoun voiced concern – like the Free Egyptians Party – over the "delicate" stage Egypt is going through, citing what he said was El-Sisi's capacity to deal with security issues as well as the country's economic, regional and international challenges. Makhyoun cited in a television interview what he said is El-Sisi's non-adherence to specific political ideologies, making him capable of uniting various national groups. Makhyoon also mentioned El-Sisi's experience in managing the army and his practical and "calm" personality as other reasons for the choice.
The Conference Party: The party founded by former presidential candidate and Hosni Mubarak-era foreign minister Amr Moussa in late 2012 gave its support to El-Sisi early on. Indeed, its president, Mohamed El-Orabi, said the party has been hoping Sisi would nominate himself since last October. The party also collected over 20,000 candidacy recommendations for El-Sisi. El-Orabi described El-Sisi as the "suitable" candidate for Egypt and asserted he has the power to safeguard Egypt from the dangers it faces. Moussa resigned as party head in July and later assumed the presidency of Egypt's constitution-amending committee that prepared Egypt's 2014 national charter. He said in an interview in December that he supports El-Sisi due to him being a "state-man" who understands the workings of the state and its needs as well as the international environment in which Egypt exists. Like the Nour Party's Makhyoun, Moussa praised El-Sisi's lack of a driving political ideology.
The Tagamoa Party: The leftwing Tagamoa Party, one of the few parties allowed to operate under Mubarak, voiced its support for El-Sisi in March. Like other supporting groups, Tagamoa cited the dangers that only Sisi can face. The group's president Mohamed Sayed Abdel-Rehim said foreign plots against Egypt by Muslim Brotherhood backers are a threat to Egypt. The party didn't choose to support El-Sisi from an ideological standpoint, Abdel-Rehim said, but due to his ability to keep the unity and security of Egypt intact. He also added that El-Sisi renewed his support for the 25 January and 30 June revolutions.
The Tagamoa Party and the Conference Party have struck an alliance to support El-Sisi's presidential campaign.
Tamarod: The Tamarod (Rebel) movement spearheaded the 30 June demonstrations against Morsi and has emerged as a supporter of El-Sisi. The decision was nevertheless not free of complications, as two of the group's leaders were shunned due to their support of El-Sisi's opponent Sabahi. Following Morsi's ouster, the group lost its homogeneity and many of its activists quit due to differences with the leadership. Mahmoud Badr, one of the movement's leaders, said in a conference in February that the group's decision was based on what he said was the Egyptian people's overwhelming support for El-Sisi. Badr demanded that El-Sisi's presidential programme reflect the demands of the 25 January and 30 June revolutions. He denied any splits in the movement due to others' choice to support Sabahi, saying the decision to support El-Sisi was unanimous and discussed by representatives of 22 Egyptian governorates. He voiced his respect for others' decisions.
Nasserist Party: In an odd twist, the Arab Democratic Nasserist Party won’t support Egypt’s leading Nasserist politician Hamdeen Sabahi – formerly one of its members. The Nasserist Party believes El-Sisi is more similar to Egypt’s historic president Gamal Abdel-Nasser than Sabahi. The party’s president Mohamed Aboul-Ela said El-Sisi’s overwhelming support – one of the reasons for the party’s choice to back him – is of the kind only enjoyed by Nasser. Akin to other El-Sisi backers, Aboul-Ela said in April that El-Sisi is capable of managing Egypt during a time when it is surrounded by dangers and conspiracies. El-Sisi's programme (unannounced so far), said Aboul-Ela, follows in the footsteps of Nasser. In a televised phone call, Aboul-Ela said that the vast majority of the party vote had chosen to support the former defence minister. Like Tagamoa and the Free Egyptians, the party has lent its support to El-Sisi’s presidential campaign.
The Constitution Party: Egypt’s center-left Constitution Party, founded by prominent politician Mohamed ElBaradei (who has since resigned from politics), decided to back Sabahi after an internal vote that was approximately 60 percent in his favour. Only 10 percent voted for El-Sisi, with the remaining 30 percent choosing a boycott of the polls. The party stressed its decision was democratic and that the vote wasn’t restricted to the higher committee. Also, the party’s bases across Egypt participated in the decision, it said. Party leaders, however, said Sabahi’s program agrees with the party’s principles. The Constitution Party is participating in Sabahi’s presidential campaign.
The Karama Party: It comes as no surprise that the Arab nationalist and Nasserist Karama Party decided to back its former president, Hamdeen Sabahi, who is also one of the party's founders. Sabahi resigned as head of the party in 2012 to run for the presidency.
The Egypt Freedom Party: The latest to join Sabahi’s camp, the Egypt Freedom Party, led by liberal political scientist and writer Amr Hamzawy – one of the staunchest critics of Egypt’s post-Morsi transition – declared its support for him in May. The decision was taken by a slight majority of the party’s members and two-thirds of its higher committee. A statement by the party said that while Sabahi’s vision doesn’t fully correspond with the party’s vision, it is still the closest among the candidates. The party said it will join Sabahi’s campaign and contribute to his electoral program.
The Socialist Popular Alliance: The Socialist Popular Alliance Party views Sabahi as an advocate of the same causes it defends – national independence and the rights of workers and farmers – and said it had decided to back him up after a 90 percent vote in his favour. The party is partaking in Sabahi’s campaign and has contributed in writing his programme, according to statements by the party's secretary-general Talaat Fahmy.
The Revolutionary Socialists: The radical leftist Revolutionary Socialists movement is backing Sabahi primarily to oppose El-Sisi, who it views as the "candidate of the counter-revolution." The group was clear in that Sabahi’s stances differ drastically from its own, especially during the interim period in which it accuses Sabahi of being silent in the face of rights violations and supporting El-Sisi’s self-declared "war on terror". However, the party views any votes diverted from El-Sisi as valuable, saying in a statement that such votes will be beneficial to building an opposition movement.
The Egyptian Popular Current: The movement founded by Sabahi is a natural backer. Sabahi and an array of other leftist figures launched the movement in 2012 to counter the then-burgeoning Islamist current under Morsi's presidency. The movement styles itself as an all-encompassing national movement aiming to achieve the goals of the 25 January revolution, including freedom and social justice.
The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL): The Brotherhood-led NASL asserted in an April statement that it will boycott the elections, calling them a "farce". The alliance of Islamist groups said the seat of the president is not empty, insisting that Mohamed Morsi still fills it. It rejected any actions taken by what it still describes as a "bloody coup" against a democratically elected president – Morsi. The NASL’s statement added that either way, ongoing bloodshed and further detainments will prevent a democratic vote from materialising.
The Strong Egypt Party: The centrist Strong Egypt Party founded by former Brotherhood member Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh has decided to boycott the vote. Aboul-Fotouh accused authorities of establishing a "republic of fear" through oppressive practices by security forces against political activists and citizens. He said in a press conference in February that the party won’t participate in "absurd" elections since it is evident to him the government isn’t following a democratic path, contrary to what it claims. Taking part in the vote, Aboul-Fotouh said, is tantamount to engaging in deluding Egyptians that a fair poll will pan out.
The April 6 Youth Movement: Like other boycotting groups, the liberal youth movement April 6 has termed the upcoming poll a "farce" and has accused authorities of creating a "false popularity" for El-Sisi. A statement released in May, however, expressed the movement’s respect for Sabahi. Despite not urging anyone to boycott, the movement – currently banned by a recent court verdict – attacked the army for leading a counter-revolution after it intervened during the 30 June uprising in Egypt.
Both April 6 and Strong Egypt said their decisions come after long deliberation and discussions within their respective groups. Neither are campaigning for a boycott, unlike the pro-Morsi NASL.
The Egyptian Social Democratic Party: The ESDP, ideologically similar to the Constitution Party, showed oddly different results in its internal vote regarding the elections. Almost half the party voted to back El-Sisi, while Sabahi was backed by a mere 9.5 percent of its higher committee. The rest voted to refrain from taking a stance altogether. The results pushed the party to do just that: give party members the freedom to take the stance they prefer.
April 6 - Democratic Front: The offshoot of April 6 Youth Movement, April 6 - Democratic Front took a decision to launch a campaign against El-Sisi and the "military rule" the group says he will entrench. According to the movement's leaders, a nation-wide vote saw division between backing Sabahi or boycotting, and so a campaign called Diddak (Against You) was favoured as the solution and approved by all the movement’s members.
The Way of the Revolution Front: The Way of the Revolution Front, a pro-democracy movement which includes April 6, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Strong Egypt Party and other liberal and leftist groups, has taken a position against El-Sisi and announced its support for either voting for Sabahi or boycotting, and campaigning against El-Sisi. In a statement released in May, the front rejected a return of the police state it believes El-Sisi will safeguard as president and urged Egyptians to be ready for a coming revolutionary wave if he does.
The elections are slated for 26-27 May, and 15-18 May for Egyptian expats.