On the starting line

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 10 Oct 2023

The door for candidate registration in the presidential election will close next Saturday, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Fawzi filing Al-Sisi s paperwork
Fawzi filing Al-Sisi s paperwork


Hopes are high that at least five hopefuls will successfully have registered for December’s presidential election by the time the door closes on Saturday. Until Monday, three candidates had registered: the incumbent, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party Farid Zahran and head of the Wafd Party Abdel-Sanad Yamama.

President Al-Sisi’s campaign manager Mahmoud Fawzi filed the necessary paperwork with the National Election Authority (NEA) on Saturday. According to Fawzi, Al-Sisi, who completed the required medical examinations on the same day his papers were filed, had secured 424 endorsements from MPs and 1,131,105 from citizens nationwide.

Under Article 142 of the constitution, candidates must obtain no less than 25,000 endorsements from eligible voters spread across at least 15 governorates, with a minimum of 1,000 supporters from each.

According to Fawzi, Al-Sisi’s decision to run came in response to the wish of millions of citizens. His popularity, he continued, stems from the fact that he led the anti-Muslim Brotherhood 30 June Revolution in 2013 and belongs to the Armed Forces. 

Fawzi said Cairo was the governorate that furnished the largest number of endorsements for Al-Sisi, followed by Giza. The New Valley governorate in Upper Egypt produced the lowest numbers.

“Of the total of public endorsements, 740,438 were from women, 364,697 from men and 514,000 endorsements came from those under 35.”

“Among MPs, 371 were party-based and 53 independents, 106 were female and 76 were young parliamentarians.” 

Al-Sisi’s presidential campaign will begin a series of nationwide events next week to publicise the president’s platform.

“We want as much direct contact with citizens as possible to explain the campaign’s programmes,” said Fawzi.

Much of the focus will be on political reform. According to Fawzi, “if he wins, President Al-Sisi will move to introduce greater political openness” culminating a process that began with the holding of the National Dialogue in May.

On the economy, Fawzi said there will be a focus on accelerating the process of privatisation and mitigating the impact of inflation on the poorest members of society. 

He added that “this is not the first time for President Al-Sisi to contest a presidential election and as a campaign we will be quick to publish facts and refute rumours and could have recourse to legal action against anyone trying to smear the campaign.”

The NEA announced on Saturday that Al-Sisi’s election campaign will be represented by a star symbol.

Farid Zahran, chairman of the opposition Egyptian Social Democratic Party, submitted his candidacy papers to the NEA on Sunday.

Zahran said he secured endorsements from 30 MPs — 10 more than the required number — most of them opposition and independent MPs. The NEA allocated Zahran the sun symbol.

Zahran said in a TV interview on Sunday that his campaign will use Let’s Change as its slogan. 

“I am calling for a major change of direction in the current regime’s political and economic policies because if we do not change them we will face a series of internal explosions,” said Zahran. “If President Al-Sisi wins the election and stays in office for another six years, the status quo will continue, we will face a vicious circle of political and economic crises.”

Zahran said his election platform will focus on solutions for Egypt’s economic and political crises.

“We want to liberate the economy from state authorities and institutions and open the way for the peaceful rotation of power, democratic elections, fair trials and greater political openness.” 

On Monday, Abdel-Sanad Yamama, head of the Wafd Party, which has 25 members in the House of Representatives, was the third candidate to file papers with the NEA.

Wafdist Senator Yasser Al-Hodeibi said Yamama was able to collect endorsements from 26 MPs. His campaign will use the slogan Rise up Egyptians, the title of a song by Sayed Darwish that was released during the 1919 Revolution against the British occupation.

“It is a historic song that reflects the will of the Egyptians and their struggle against injustice and oppression,” said Al-Hodeibi. 

Yamama says he will stand on a platform that calls for “radical changes in Egypt’s current economic and political policies”.

“The economic crisis is the major concern of Egyptians and we need a programme that can revitalise the nation,” he said. 

Yamama’s election campaign will be represented by a palm tree.

An additional three candidates are hoping to secure the needed endorsements before the nomination door closes on Saturday.

Hazem Omar, head of the People’s Republican Party, which has 50 members in the House of Representatives, said he expected to join the race by the end of this week having obtained 44 endorsements from MPs and undertaken the stipulated medical exam on Sunday.

Gameela Ismail, head of the Dostour Party, said in a statement on Monday that she had secured the minimum number of endorsements required but provided no details. “I am now preparing my candidacy papers and will undergo the necessary medical exam,” she said.

Former MP Ahmed Al-Tantawi said on Monday that he is still struggling to collect the required endorsements from citizens. Al-Tantawi, who has accused the authorities of suppressing his campaign, made a last-ditch call to the public to turn up to notary offices to register their endorsements. 

Al-Tantawi sparked controversy when he said that if he failed to collect enough notarised endorsements he would prepare an unofficial list of endorsements from members of the public who had been prevented from registering them at notary offices.

The Interior Ministry said on Monday that a total of eight people had been arrested in Alexandria, Giza, Fayoum, and Suez for forging unofficial endorsements.

Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie expects that the presence of three or four candidates alongside Al-Sisi on the ballot paper will make the election “competitive and exciting” when compared to the 2014 and 2018 polls.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives and political parties have accused the European Parliament (EP) of smearing the presidential election. The House issued a statement saying the EP’s call for credible, free, and fair elections and an end to harassment of hopeful presidential candidates and opposition figures, particularly Al-Tantawi, represented “unjustified and blatant interference in Egypt’s internal affairs”.

“These claims reveal the EP’s prejudice about the electoral process,” the House said, stressing that the NEA is a neutral body.

The House also said the EP claim that at least 73 of Al-Tantawi’s campaign staff and supporters had been arrested was untrue.

“This claim aims at distorting the image of the electoral process,” the statement said, noting that Al-Tantawi has not provided the names of those claimed to be arrested.

Voting will take place on 10-12 December in Egypt, and between 1 and 3 December for expats. The results will be announced on 18 December if no runoff is required. 

* A version of this article appears in print in the 12 October, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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