Egypt's presidential elections campaigning kicks off

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 22 Feb 2018

Campaigning in Egypt’s presidential election begins on Saturday with two candidates competing

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Head of the Ghad (Tomorrow) Party, Moussa Mustafa
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Head of the Ghad (Tomorrow) Party, Moussa Mustafa

On 24 February the National Electoral Commission (NEC) officially announces the names of candidates that will appear on the ballot paper for presidential elections scheduled between 26 and 28 March.

NEC announced on 2 February that it had accepted the candidacies of two election hopefuls: incumbent President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi who is running for a second four-year term, and head of the Ghad (Tomorrow) Party, Moussa Mustafa Moussa.

The NEC has not received any legal challenges against the two candidates, “nor have we received any objections on their eligibility”, says NEC Spokesperson Mahmoud Al-Sherif. As a result “the final list on 24 February is expected to consist of the two candidates, Al-Sisi and Moussa”.

Presidential campaigning officially kicks off on Saturday. The NEC is allowing 11 days — until 13 March — for campaigning among expatriates abroad and for 28 days — until 23 March — in Egypt. In addition, “candidates can withdraw from the race until 1 March”.

Moussa told Al-Ahram on 19 February he has no intention of withdrawing even if President Al-Sisi is assured of victory.

“My campaign will focus on a clear platform and programmes. It will then be up to the people to judge on the voting day,” said Moussa.

The Ghad Party announced on 18 February the campaign team of its candidate Moussa had already been formed and was ready to start work. “The executive members of the campaign have been selected and are prepared to begin campaigning on Saturday,” the Ghad Party said in a statement.

In an interview with Al-Ahram Moussa said his campaign will focus on improving economic conditions.

“I have just one message for Egypt’s political parties,” said Moussa. “It is that your participation in political life must be more active.”

“I wonder why high-profile political parties opted not to field presidential candidates though they could have easily met the registration requirements.”

“When the Wafd Party said it would field a candidate I was happy and said I would support them. When it backtracked I was disappointed and decided to stand myself,” said Moussa. “History will remember that I took this decision in order to inject new blood into Egypt’s political life.”

Moussa, 66, is an engineer. He entered politics in 2005 when he was named deputy head of the Ghad Party, founded a year earlier by political activist Ayman Nour.

When, at the end of 2005, Nour was found guilty of forging the registration and foundation papers of the party, “it was necessary for the Ghad to move and oust him from the leadership”.

“It was then,” says Moussa, “that I decided to correct the Ghad’s direction and align the party with the national interest.”

Moussa’s father served as an MP for the Cairo district of Bab Al-Sheriya before the1952 Revolution.

“I am a member of an old political family,” says Moussa. “What distracted me from politics for a long time was that I had to study in France for my BSc in architectural engineering.”

The Ghad Party contested the 2015 parliamentary elections in alliance with the liberal Congress Party and won three seats.

Moussa says his decision to contest the poll triggered attacks from the Muslim Brotherhood and Ayman Nour.

“I have disrupted their plans to portray the poll as a referendum, as a one man show,” says Moussa. He described Ayman Nour as “a small and worthless person”.

Moussa opposes any political return of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“This group has the blood of Egyptians on its hands and it can’t be allowed back to divide the Egyptians and turn the country into a sectarian state,” he says.

Moussa does not think of himself as “a rival to President Al-Sisi”.

“I am a big supporter of President Al-Sisi,” Moussa told Al-Ahram. “But once I decided to run I took the matter seriously. I want citizens to choose between two programmes.”

“My major concern is to improve economic conditions and create employment opportunities. The greatest amount of attention in this country in the coming years should be devoted to creating jobs for young people who will soon form half the population.”

“Recent economic reforms have made it hard for many people, particularly the young, to meet their basic needs. I will print thousands of leaflets explaining how I intend to reverse this situation within six months,” said Moussa.

“Once official campaigning begins I will hold rallies in provincial governorates to address the people and explain my platform.”

Moussa is hoping these rallies will attract crowds of up to 30,000.

Ten political parties held a conference last week to announce they, too, will hold rallies.

“The rallies, held under the slogan ‘Egypt first… Turn out and vote’, will support President Al-Sisi and mobilise citizens to vote in the upcoming election,” said a joint statement released on Monday.

Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs last week that the House will adjourn in March to give MPs the chance to address their districts and persuade constituents to go out and vote.

Deputy Speaker Al-Sayed Al-Sherif told Al-Ahram Weekly that he intends to tour governorates to deliver speeches on the presidential poll.

“I think it is our duty to urge citizens to actively participate in the election and send a strong message to the evil people calling for a boycott,” said Al-Sherif. “Great economic and security achievements make me confident that we will see a historic turnout.”

* This story was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly 

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