Thousands of supporters of presidential candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh attended the large event his campaign organised Friday night at El-Gezira Youth Centre in Cairo, wrapping up a series of public events just four days before the start of presidential elections 23-24 May. The spectacular event reminded many of the official launch of Abul-Fotouh's campaign in Al-Azhar Park in April.
Before the event started, hundreds of Abul-Fotouh campaign supporters, dubbed Ultras Abul-Fotouh, as well members of Maserna Movement and El-Wasat Party members organised several marches from Kasr El-Nil Bridge to both El-Gezira Youth Centre in Zamalek and Tahrir Square, holding orange banners and flags and sporting the slogan of Abul-Fotouh's campaign: "Strong Egypt."
Inside El-Gezira Youth Centre, hundreds of volunteers and members of Abul-Fotouh's campaign wore orange vests and worked to help people find their places. "We will hold other public events in the upcoming few days, but not as big as this one. This is the last and biggest carnival we will hold to support our campaign and Dr Abul-Fotouh after 14 months and before the elections," one of the campaign's volunteers told Ahram Online.
The audience appeared to represent a cross section of Egyptian society, whether by social or ideological background, or even from across age differences and geographical locaton. There were supporters who came from Sinai and from Red Sea tribes from Marsa Alam. There were supporters from Suez and Alexandria.
Ahram Online asked Mostafa from Suez why he came to support Abul-Fotouh. He answered, "because Abul-Fotouh represents the revolution." "Abul-Fotouh is uniting Egyptians from different political powers, Islamists and liberals. We need him." Mostafa hinted that Abul-Fotouh has huge support in Suez.
The same question was asked to Dr Fatima Taher, a grandmother who came with her daughter and granddaughter to attend the event. "I came to support Abul-Fotouh because he is a moderate Islamist, open to everybody. I support him because he is not afraid to admit that he was wrong and to correct his mistakes, like when he admitted that he made a mistake when he spoke about selling cosmetics in pharmacies." Dr Taher explained: "He is a man who listens to him team's members and respects their opinions. His wife, Dr Alia, said that during the presidential debate with Amr Moussa he did not fire back at him as he might have done because he was following his team's advice."
Ahram Online asked also Osama Rushdie, journalist and ex-Gamaa Islamiya member who attended the event as a VIP why he supported Abul-Fotouh, especially that he was supported by liberals in the country. "Egypt needs a president like that now, who can unify all groups and parties, whether Muslims or Christians, whether Islamists or liberals. Egypt does not need a president from a specific group or party at this particular stage," Rushie said.
The event included a special corner in the front with seats for the disabled from all over Egypt, as well as for the hearing and speech impaired, who had special translators that covered the event from its start until the end of the night. It also included a booth for campaign merchandise, from campaign flags to caps, mugs and T-shirts.
The event starts
Despite that it should have started at 6pm, the event started at nearly 8pm when Abul-Fotouh and his convey arrived in Zamalek to a huge reception from supporters who chanted, "Where is the press, here is the president!" outside the centre while thousands awaited Abul-Fotouh inside.
On the main stage, the manager of Abul-Fotouh's campaign, Mohamed El-Shamawahy, presented the event and its speakers. Proceedings started with verses from the Quran and a minute's silence dedicated to the martyrs of the revolution, including martyrs from among the volunteers working on the Abul-Fotouh campaign.
Just like the audiances, the event's speakers represented a wide specturm of Egyptian society, from the left to the right, from liberals to Islamists, from writers and professors to footballers, actors and singers.
Among the speakers who praised Abul-Fotouh and explained why they supported him were El-Wasat Party leader Abu Ela Mady, MP Essam Sultan of El-Wasat Party, MP Mostafa Al-Naggar of El-Adl Party, El-Nour Party leader Mohamed Nour, El-Nour official spokesperson Nader Bakar, former Muslim Brotherhood leading member Kamel El-Helbawy , prominent writer Fahmy Howeidy, poet and TV host Abdel Rahman Youssef, actor Athar El-Hakim, activst Wael Ghonim, lefitst activist Wael Khalil, director Amr Salama, director and screenwriter Mohamed Diab, actor Ahmed Fahmy, former footballer Nader El-Sayed, Dr Sherif Dous and Abul-Fotouh's political adviser Rabab El-Mahdy.
The speakers spoke each for a few minutes on why they supported Abul-Fotouh and his presidential platform, "Strong Egypt," despite their ideological differences.
Mohamed Nour announced publicly that his party chose Abul-Fotouh because the party wants "a state of justice." "God blesses the state of justice [even] if it were state of unbelievers and does not bless the state of injustice [even] if it were state of believers," Nour said, sending a direct message to the Muslim Brotherhood that El-Nour Party stood strongly with Abul-Fotouh.
"I want a president who does not think himself as Salahdin or our savior; I want a president who is the head of the executive authority, nothing more, nothing less," said famed activist Wael Ghonim.
MP Essam Sultan called on both presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi and Abu El-Ezz El-Hariri to reconsider their positions and to withdraw from the presidential race in favour of Abul-Fotouh.
The event included three short documentaries about Abul-Fotouh and his campaign, including one produced and presented by actress Hanan Turk.
Abul-Fotouh takes the stage
The main act of the event was Abul-Fotouh's short speech to thousands of his faithful supporters. In the speech Abul-Fotouh warned the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) against any attempt to manipulate the results of the elections through money, saying he talked to General Sami Anan, deputy chairman of SCAF, on the phone Thursday.
"I told Anan that the Egyptian army is responsible for any attempt at manipulation in the presidential elections," Abul-Fotouh said, adding he warned Anan and his follow SCAF members against insulting the military's honour.
"I am confident that the Egyptian army will stand at the people's side," Abul-Fotouh said, responding to rumours spreading in recent says that SCAF will take the side of a preferred presidential candidate.
"We should stop the use of political money that buys votes in elections. We should not go back in time," Abul-Fotouh said, insisting at the same time that the Egyptian state can manage to hold fair presidential elections as scheduled.