El-Sisi's sole challenger in Egypt's election says he is running to win

Ayat Al Tawy , Friday 23 Mar 2018

Mosa Mustafa Mosa
Presidential candidate in Egypt's 2018 elections and Ghad Party head Moussa Mostafa Moussa (Photo: Ayat Al-Tawy)

Speaking a few days before polls are set to open, the sole competitor running against incumbent President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in the country's presidential election maintains he entered the race meaning to win, although he acknowledges many Egyptians still can't recognise his face.

Over the past weeks, Cairo’s streets, highways and public places have been festooned with banners and billboards proclaiming their support for El-Sisi; public declarations of support for Moussa Mostafa Moussa, the head of the Ghad Party, have been harder to spot.

But the 65-year-old politician told Ahram Online the competition is serious and "very strong."

"We understand we are facing El-Sisi who has popularity; no one is underestimating his weight. I'm entering to win and get more than 50 percent of the votes, but I don't know what the results will be," he said, speaking at his party’s headquarters in Downtown Cairo.

El-Sisi won a landslide victory with about 97 percent in elections that brought him to office four years ago. Observers say he is likely to win next week's vote by a comfortable margin.

In January, Moussa submitted his papers to register as a candidate just minutes before the deadline was set to pass; at that point, El-Sisi was the only other candidate who has successfully submitted his application.

Moussa had not publicly declared his intention to run until the day before the deadline, but he said he had netted 47,000 pledges from citizens across the country--well more than the 25,000 endorsements required--and the backing of 27 MPs.

"If we do not win, at least we hope we get an acceptable number of votes that would give us the opportunity to perform our patriotic role for the country," he said.

Moussa, an architect and a businessman who owns a number of building material companies, is himself a supporter of El-Sisi, and last year founded a campaign comprising several political parties to endorse a second term for the incumbent.

His own Ghad Party was organising events to back El-Sisi for a second term until Moussa's surprise presidential bid at the end of the registration period.

He had also launched a movement in 2014 to drum up support for El-Sisi, then minister of defence, to run for the presidency in that year’s election. 

Now a challenger, Moussa has nonetheless avoided criticising El-Sisi, instead praising the current president's "great achievements" and "undeniable popularity."

Should he win, Moussa tells Ahram Online, he would give El-Sisi any official role the current president would like to play to serve the Egyptian people.

Saving the vote

Moussa says his campaign has been self-funded via a limited budget, having failed to attract a single sponsor.

"I'm not saying [El-Sisi's] campaign has spent heavily. He has supporters who organised big conferences and provided him with free advertisements," he said.

"I'm new to you. I'm trying hard by myself and putting up banners so people can get to know me. People don't know my face."

Despite a flurry of criticism and ridicule directed at his candidacy, which doubters allege is only a face-saving measure to give the upcoming elections a veneer of competition, Moussa says his bid was prompted by what he sees as a "patriotic obligation" to protect the country.

He wants to save the vote from being a referendum on a single candidate, after all other credible potential candidates dropped out of the race.

A number of other prospective contenders had stated their intention to run earlier this year, but pulled out, with some citing an unfair campaigning environment.

"A referendum [one-candidate election] is very dangerous at a time when there are conspiracies against the country. No one will go to vote because it will only be one person," he said.

"I'm not a puppet. I have my weight and everyone knows our patriotic role and history. I don't get influenced by anyone. No one dictates us what to do and no one is going to give us something [in return]," he added.

Moussa lays the blame on the challengers who dropped out for their withdrawals, saying some either ran in the first place to create "media buzz" or were serving a "systematic agenda to undermine the country."

He expects 60 percent of eligible voters will go to the polls from 26-28 March, well more than the 47 percent turnout in the 2014 vote that brought El-Sisi to office.

Moussa says his policy platform is mainly economic-oriented and is aimed at improving the living standards of Egyptians struggling with harsh economic reforms, but is reluctant to criticise El-Sisi's policies.

He promises to help low-income and farmers, control soaring prices of basic commodities, reopen closed factories and offer citizens shares in national projects and future hospitals and schools the government will build.

Should El-Sisi win, Moussa says he will present his programme to the second-term president, so they can work together to carry it out and improve Egyptians’ lives.

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