Sabahi's campaign: 'The vote is far from settled'

Randa Ali , Friday 23 May 2014

Optimism and determination dominate the last campaign event of presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabahi

hamdeen Sabahi
Presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi salutes the crowd during his last campaign's event, 23 May 2014 (Photo: Randa Ali)

On the last night before an electoral silence is imposed on Egypt's two presidential candidates -- ex-defence minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Nasserist politician Hamdeen Sabahi -- thousands of the latter's supporters flocked to Abdeen Square in central Cairo on Friday evening, with fingers crossed that "one of us" Sabahi will make his way from the ballot boxes to the presidential palace.

"Hamdeen represents a great history of struggle. We come from a slightly younger generation and for us, he was an inspirstion for patriotism," Sabry Abdel-Sattar, an engineer, told Ahram Online before Sabahi's campaign event kicked off.

Abdel-Sattar acknowledges that Sabahi's electoral fight is far from easy, yet he remains on the side of the candidate he voted for in the 2012 presidential election, who he says is a true "nationionalist and pan-Arab".

Every few minutes, groups of young men formed circles and, like hardcore football fans, chanted for their candidate, reminding Sabahi of his promises to the revolution. But the most frequent chants were for those who are languishing behind bars in Egyptian prisons, like Egyptian Popular Current member Ahmed Douma and Revolutionary Socialist Mahienour El-Masry, both of whom were sentenced to jail for violating the country's protest law.

The festive conference was dominated by young people and members of Sabahi's campaign, upon whom the Nasserist candidate has placed his hopes for securing the majority of votes, explaining that in Egypt the youth represent over 51 percent of eligible voters.

Sabahi 2
(Photo: Randa Ali)

Speaking on the stage that overlooks Abdeen Palace, spokesman of Sabahi's Egyptian Popular Current Hossam Moenes said that "Egyptians will give a lesson for those who said that the results are already settled", hinting at the widespread belief that El-Sisi -- who overwhelmingly won the country's expat vote earlier this week -- will win the country's domestic poll on Monday and Tuesday.

In September 2012, a few months after the Nasserist candidate finished third in the 2012 presidential race, Sabahi formed the Egyptian Popular Current -- and announced its founding at a popular conference also in Abdeen Square in the presence of several prominent figures that have now shifted to El-Sisi's camp, including Hakim Abdel-Nasser, son of the late president and Sabahi's source of inspiration, Gamal Abdel-Nasser.

Nevertheless, the square was still packed on Friday, with prominent leftist, liberal and intellectual figures still standing next to him, determined to "continue their struggle and support for Sabahi", who they see as a continuation of their struggle towards achieving the goals of the 25 January 2011 revolution.

"We at the Constitution Party had no other option but to support Sabahi. We were present during the 25 January revolution and Sabahi was with us," said Khaled Dawoud, spokesman of the Constitution Party, one of several parties that announced their support for Sabahi.

For Dawoud, who stressed that "impossible is nothing", the results for him are also far from settled.

"I thought this election was lacking democratic standards and that the elections law was tailored for El-Sisi, but I eventually realised this is not an electoral battle but rather a revolution versus counter-revolution and I had to side with the revolutionaries," said novelist and pro-democracy advocate Alaa El-Aswany.

Others who showed up on stage to support Sabahi include ex-minister of culture Emad Abou Ghazi, founders of the Tamarod movement Hassan Shahin and Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, in addition to Salah Gaber, father of late activist Gaber Salah, also known as Jika, who died in 2012 during clashes with the police and has since become a revolutionary figure.

"Hamdeen, son of the poor, tomorrow you'll beat the field marshal," the crowd chanted as Sabahi took the podium in front of a giant banner reading, "We can".

(Photo: Randa Ali)

During his speech, the leftist candidate reiterated his committment to the establisment of social justice, eradicating poverty and turning Egypt into a discrimination-free state.

"We will win for the poor, this is not our first round of struggle," said Sabahi, reminding the audience of the fights they've won against the "corrupt [Hosni] Mubarak regime" and the "oppressive rule of the Muslim Brotherhood".

Sabahi urged his supporters to have faith in themselves, despite ongoing defamation, media bias and a lack of campaing funding.

He further promised to establish "a youthful and successful state" that preserves freedoms and that will "amend the flawed protest law and release those jailed for their political views".

"We have saved the people from being faced with only one candidate," he added. "We gave them a choice and now we can only pray that the people will side with justice, freedom, the martyrs, hope and the future."

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