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Egypt's presidential election process shifts to high gear this week

Egypt's long-awaited presidential election process start in earnest in the coming days when a date for candidate registration is announced

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 29 Mar 2014
hamdan
Hamdan Fahmy, the secretary general of Presidential elections (Photo:Ahram)
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The Presidential Elections Commission (PEC) — the five-member judicial body tasked with supervising Egypt's upcoming presidential poll — is scheduled to meet Sunday to open the door for candidate registrations.

According to PEC Secretary-General Hamdan Fahmi, the commission decided to hold procedural meetings Sunday and Monday to review final preparations before an official date for candidate registration is announced.

Fahmi also indicated that the commission approved Friday that Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi register his name on their voter lists. This comes after El-Sisi resigned from his posts as army head and minister of defence on 26 March. First Lieutenant General Sobhi Sedki, the former chief of military staff, was appointed the new minister of defence on 27 March. According to Article 234 of the new constitution, the minister of defence is appointed on approval of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) — a provision in force for two presidential terms (8 years) only.

Sources close to PEC expect that the registration window will open Tuesday — 1 April — and last for three weeks, while the actual poll is expected to be sometime in the second half of May.

In its Sunday and Monday procedural meetings, PEC will focus on reviewing a number of measures aimed at regulating the election campaign and underscoring the role of civil society organisations and foreign and local media in monitoring the poll.

In its meetings last week, PEC finalised printing its candidacy endorsement forms. According to Fahmi, these forms will be available in public notary offices in order for hopeful candidates to use them to collect the 25,000 supporting signatures stipulated as necessary by Article 142 of the new constitution. Article 142 also stipulates that hopeful candidates collect the required endorsements from 15 governorates, with at least 1,000 signatures from each.

Fahmi told journalists Friday that "in its review, PEC approved that El-Sisi and other former military and police officials who reached the age of retirement register their names in voter lists, in line with the 1956 law on exercise of political rights." Fahmi did not indicate how many former army and police officials were registered Friday.

According to El-Sisi's new national identity card, his full name is Abdel-Fattah Said Hussein Khalil El-Sisi, his new address was relocated from Nasr City to Heliopolis in east Cairo, and his job is former minister of defence.

In a televised speech on 26 March, while wearing a military uniform for the last time, El-Sisi said he decided to step down to make his presidential bid. He said although it would be difficult for him to hold public rallies, he is keen to prepare an election platform necessary to win the satisfaction of Egyptians.

Recent reports show that El-Sisi has already formed a team to be responsible for his presidential election campaign. The team is led by Amr Moussa, Egypt's former foreign minister and chairman of the 50-Member Committee that drafted the new constitution last December, and includes Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Elchoubaki, Cairo University professor and former coordinator of Kefaya Movement Abdel-Gelil Mostafa, presidential media advisor Mostafa Hegazy, high-profile movie director Khaled Youssef, and founder of the Tamaroud (Rebel) movement Mahmoud Badr. Former ambassador Mahmoud Karim was appointed El-Sisi presidential campaign general coordinator.

If the door for registration is opened Tuesday, El-Sisi's campaign will begin touring 27 governorates to collect the required 25,000 signatures," Elchoubaki told Ahram Online. He indicated that "because of security concerns, El-Sisi will not be able to hold public conferences." "As far as I know, El-Sisi will focus on holding limited public conferences with representatives of trade unions, farmers, and professional syndicates, making television and press interviews, and maybe in a later stage there could be an open televised debate between him and rival Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi."

No sooner had El-Sisi announced his decision to contest the upcoming presidential election than some political forces rallied to announce their support for him. Shaaban Abdel-Alim, a leading official of the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party said, "The party supports El-Sisi, but our official announcement on this will come only after the door of registration is closed and El-Sisi's platform is announced." "We think that El-Sisi's decision to step down and run in the presidential poll as a civilian candidate is a good step that goes in line with the new constitution, but we still have to wait to see how his election platform aims to respect freedoms, democracy and social justice," said Abdel-Alim.

El-Sisi has forged good relations with the Nour Party since the ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013. He was keen to hold several meetings with Nour officials when he was minister of defence.

In a public statement Saturday, the leftist Tagammu Party announced its support for El-Sisi. Rifaat Al-Said, the  Tagammu's honorary chairman and a formidable foe of the Muslim Brotherhood, said: "The party highly appreciates the role of El-Sisi in ridding Egypt of the regime of the Muslim Brotherhood and as a result we will put all our resources to serve his presidential campaign and even without the need for him to announce an election platform."

Other political factions, mostly formed by diehards of former president Hosni Mubarak's defunct National Democratic Party (NDP), also rallied to support El-Sisi, vowing to collect millions of recommendations for him. One of these — Misr Baladi (My homeland Egypt), led by former Interior Minister Ahmed Gamaleddin — said: "We greatly support El-Sisi to implement the ideals of the 30 June revolution and to move the country forward."

On the other hand, a group of leftist and liberal political forces publicly announced their support for Nasserist political figure and prospective candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, who is expected to be El-Sisi's main rival. The pro-Sabbahi forces also include revolutionary movements, like the April 6 Youth Movement, whose young leaders are currently in jail in violation of the protest law.

Moatasem Marzouk, Sabbahi's spokesman, told a television channel in interview that Sabbahi enjoys the support of most young revolutionary forces. "Our campaign will be a battle to win the supporters of the two revolutions of 25 January and 30 June, on the one hand, and the supporters of the defunct regime of Hosni Mubarak on the other."

Marzouq said Sabbahi's campaign will be closely observing whether state authorities refrain from "favouring one candidate at the expense of another."

"If they really want this election to be competitive, all state authorities must strictly observe impartiality and the international standards of fair polls," said Marzouq.

He also indicated that Sabbahi's campaign insists that there should be close international monitoring of the poll, to ensure it is marked with integrity and fairness.

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