Egypt's notary offices witness high turnout to endorse presidential hopefuls

Ahram Online , Sunday 1 Oct 2023

Notary offices across Egypt were jammed for the seventh day in a row on Sunday as thousands of citizens gathered to endorse President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi for a third presidential term, while supporters of other potential candidates are reportedly struggling to issue endorsements.

Egyptians gather at notary offices across Egypt to endorse potential candidates. Ahram


Notary offices started receiving endorsements for candidates last Monday, with Egypt’s National Election Authority (NEA) announcing that those seeking to run in the 2024 presidential election can submit for candidacy from 5 to 14 October 2023.

As a precondition to run for president, the Egyptian constitution requires candidates to secure endorsements from at least 20 MPs from the House of Representatives or 25,000 registered voters from at least 15 governorates, with a minimum of 1,000 endorsements from each governorate.

Meanwhile, hundreds of parliament members gathered in the parliament last week to endorse El-Sisi, who has not announced his intention to run for re-election to date.

Parliamentary majority bloc Mostaqbal Watan (the Nation's Future Party) announced they are backing El-Sisi’s potential candidacy.

The week-long presence of pro-El-Sisi crowds at notary offices led TV presenter Amr Adeeb to speculate that the incumbent president might have already secured ten times the minimum number of endorsements he requires from citizens.

El-Sisi, president since 2014, inaugurated a three-day conference on Saturday to shed light on the nation’s achievements in different fields. In a speech on Saturday, El-Sisi stressed that Egyptians will have “an opportunity for change” in the upcoming presidential elections, slated for December.

Voting in Egypt will take place 10-12 December, with Egyptians abroad casting their votes 1-3 December.

Few endorsements for opposition

Over the past seven days, two of seven candidates who have announced their plans to run for president claimed that their supporters had been subjected to harassment and exceptional obstacles at notary offices that made them fail to issue the expected number of endorsements.

Former MP and former head of the leftist Karama (Dignity) Party Ahmed El-Tantawy, known for criticising El-Sisi’s policies, has been touring notary offices in governorates to investigate his supporters’ complaints.

On Sunday, El-Tantawy was filmed while standing among tens of his supporters in Mansoura, who complained that they could only issue one endorsement form during the day.

In the video, El-Tantawy said he visits three governorates daily, noting that “hundreds” of his supporters in Alexandria and Kafr El-Sheikh could only issue nine endorsement forms on Saturday.

El-Tantawy asserted that his supporters “need only two hours” to complete the required endorsements.

Last week, El-Tantawy suspended his political campaign, claiming his supporters have been “obstructed from issuing endorsements" before resuming it again during the weekend.

Furthermore, Gameela Ismail, the chairwoman of the liberal Dostour (Constitution) Party, earlier echoed the same complaints.

In a statement last week on her Facebook page, Ismail asserted that “most potential candidates” complained about “harassment, obstacles, threats and intimidation” that their supporters are subjected to while attempting to issue the endorsements.

Favouritism allegations ‘baseless’

In light of such claims by the two potential candidates and their campaign members,  Egypt's NEA has denied any violations, favouritism, or mistreatment of any individual at the notary offices responsible for issuing endorsement forms.

The NEA added in a statement last week that all the claims, which the authority has investigated, "are nothing more than baseless and false allegations."

Moreover, the authority rejected any attempts to cast doubts on its independence, stressing that "no party has the right to interfere with its work in any way."

Taking the parliamentary shortcut

Three potential candidates have obtained the required number of endorsements from MPs to qualify to run.

Potential candidate Hazem Omar, whose Republican People’s Party has around 50 members in the House of Representatives, secured 44 endorsements from MPs, or more than double the minimum.

Potential candidate Abdel-Sanad Yamama, head of Egypt’s old liberal Wafd Party, obtained 20 endorsements from MPs.

Meanwhile, potential candidate Farid Zahran, head of the opposition Egyptian Social Democratic Party, which has only a few members in the House of Representatives, has secured the minimum 20 endorsements required.

Earlier, Zahran complained that the 10-day period specified by the NEA to secure 25,000 endorsements from people is “too short,” asserting in an online interview with journalist Hafez Al-Mirazi last week that this “undermines” the upcoming elections.

Presidential hopeful candidate Ahmed El-Fadaly, chairman of the Democratic Peace Party and the Independent Current Coalition, has expressed his rejection of the NEA's decision to allocate only ten days for issuing endorsements, saying that the notary offices may not be able to process all endorsements required in such short period.

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