Three of five revolutionary candidates set to unite in presidency race

Sherif Tarek , Saturday 28 Apr 2012

Presidential candidates El-Hariri, Sabbahi and El-Bastawisi are close to joining forces, hoping to unite the revolutionary vote in Egypt's elections; Abul-Fotouh and Khaled Ali remain out of the forthcoming agreement

(Clockwise) El-Hariri, Sabbahi, Ali, Abul-Fotouh and El-Bastawisi

Presidential candidate Abul-Ezz El-Hariri revealed Friday he is on the verge of reaching an agreement with fellow contenders, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Hisham El-Bastawisi, that would see two of the aforementioned candidates withdraw from the presidential race to back the third, in an attempt to unite revolutionary voters.

"I think we are about to reach an agreement between Hamdeen Sabbahi, El-Bastawisi and me over one presidential candidate," El-Hariri said on his Twitter account, without naming a favourite.

"This is what you (revolutionaries) wished would happen – that Hamdeen Sabbahi and I work together in presidential elections. We will unite to support one candidate to represent the revolutionaries."

Al-Ahram's Arabic website reported that the three presidential contestants – upon reaching an accord – will put their signatures to a statement before officially announcing the decision. The trio's respective presidential campaigns would also be dedicated to support the chosen sole candidate, according to Al-Ahram's Arabic site.

Socialist and labour activist El-Hariri, Nasserist opposition figure Sabbahi and prominent reformist judge El-Bastawisi emerged from last year's uprising as high-profile revolutionary figures. They stood alongside Tahrir Square's protesters and called for the overthrow of then president Hosni Mubarak, who was eventually deposed on 11 February 2011.

Commenting on the forthcoming alliance of the three candidates, political analyst Mohamed El-Agati told Ahram Online, "I think it is a good step, but it is not enough to unify the revolutionary vote behind one candidate."

He added: "In order to unite revolutionary votes, all revolutionary figures must be involved in that agreement. In other words, (Islamist activist and former Muslim Brotherhood leader) Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh and (renowned lawyer and activist) Khaled Ali.

"Khaled Ali is willing to be involved in such an agreement to unite all revolutionary constituents, if all candidates representing the revolution are on board. Apparently, though, Abul-Fotouh wants to run for president on his own."

Abul-Fotouh committed to Brotherhood?

El-Hariri later, in an interview with Al-Ahram's Arabic website, stated that he refuses to have Abul-Fotouh as a partner in the alliance. "The alliance is my idea, which I came up with over four months ago and set criteria for," he said.

"The candidates in this alliance must be popular, reputable and have comprehensive platforms that will save Egypt by improving all aspects of life: social, political and economic.

"I chose figures like Sabbahi and El-Bastawisi because they are considered democratic forces, and among the principles they espouse is that Egypt be a secular state - not theocratic.

"Abul-Fotouh wouldn't harmonise with that civic idea, because he is committed to the (Brotherhood's) Supreme Guide (Mohamed Badie) and not to the people. Neither does he have his own platform as a presidential candidate.

"His platform is the same as the Brotherhood's," charged El-Hariri, "So he cannot be with us."

El-Hariri also pointed to Abul-Fotouh's previous political positions, saying: "He endorsed the fake constitutional declaration (the current temporary constitution voted for in March in 2011) and supports the Camp David treaty (with Israel).

"He is also among those who refused to amend Article 28 (of the constitutional declaration)." Critics of Article 28 argue that it grants the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) unfettered authority.

Abul-Fotouh was expelled from the Brotherhood shortly after the 18-day uprising for announcing his intention to run for president, thereby going against the group's decision at the time not to field a presidential candidate.

The Brotherhood later backtracked on their decision and announced Khairat El-Shater as their candidate – the man who is widely believed to be responsible for Abul-Fotouh's expulsion from the Brotherhood.

The SPEC, however, concluded that El-Shater is ineligible to run for president due to legal problems. The Brotherhood, subsequently, fielded Mohamed Morsi, the head of their political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), in the presidential contest instead.

Several doubters – including El-Hariri – believe Abul-Fotouh's dismissal from the Brotherhood was actually fake, and that he is still committed to the group.

The other accepted presidential candidates are diplomat and politician Amr Moussa; former commander of the Egyptian Air Force Ahmed Shafiq; ex-deputy director of intelligence Hossam Khairallah; international law PhD Abdallah El-Ashaal; Islamic thinker and writer Mohamed Selim El-Awa; former police officer Mahmoud Hossam and police expert Mohamed Fawzy.

The first round of Egypt's presidential elections will take place on 23 and 24 May and the president will be named on 21 June after a runoff-voting round, if needed, on 16 and 17 June.

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