Friday , 1 December 2023
Home / Normal / Off to the Races, or not: Election season kicks off with unannounced candidate in lead position as opposition faces hurdles

Off to the Races, or not: Election season kicks off with unannounced candidate in lead position as opposition faces hurdles

It has been two days since the National Elections Authority officially launched election season, setting off a sprint toward the December 10–12 poll date.

The first leg will see prospective candidates clear mandated thresholds to run, either by collecting enough nomination petitions or receiving endorsements from parliamentarians.

While only three candidates — Ahmed al-Tantawi, Farid Zahran and Gameela Ismail — have announced their intention to run, the first two days of the election cycle have been dominated by the still unannounced bid of incumbent President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and marred by intimidation and reports of arrests against his potential challengers.

To qualify for a presidential run, each prospective candidate must either be endorsed by at least 20 sitting members of Parliament or must collect nomination petitions from at least 25,000 citizens from at least 15 governorates, with a minimum of 1,000 supporters per governorate.

While Sisi has yet to announce whether or not he will seek a third term, the local press portrayed an outpouring of crowds to real-estate registry offices across the country to file nomination petitions for the president.

This outpouring of support was mostly organized by the parliamentary majority party, the Nation’s Future Party, which has been posting photos of the crowds since Monday alongside captions describing the “thousands of party members” filing nominations. In comments to the media, Nation’s Future Party MP Atef Nasser said that “100 percent of the party’s members will be endorsing Sisi as a candidate.”

Prominent TV anchor Amr Adib discussed the rush to nominate Sisi during his talk show on Monday evening, saying that “over 250,000” people had pledged to support Sisi just hours after the election timetable was announced and that people were queuing up at real-estate registries to do so.

At the level of parliamentary endorsement, the state-owned Middle East News Agency reported on Tuesday that MPs were flocking to fill in candidate endorsement forms, without noting which candidates were being endorsed. The privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm indicated that one MP from the Egyptian Social Democratic Party filed a form in support of party head and prospective candidate Farid Zahran.

Meanwhile, Sisi kept up his not-yet-campaigning campaign activity on Tuesday, attending an event celebrating the excellence of Egypt’s universities at Suez Canal University, where he made a number of comments reflecting his political vision. He also pledged the allocation of a “significant sum” out of the Tahya Masr Fund to support the construction of 100 schools. The pledge came in conjunction with the Agriculture Ministry’s launch of what it described as “the largest convoy of food commodities and veterinary services to North Sinai,” which the minister underscored was undertaken per the instructions of the president.

While the state was mobilizing to support an unannounced presidential bid, the Civil Democratic Movement, a coalition of liberal, left and Nasserist parties from which three prospective candidates have announced their intention to run, has expressed concern that the nomination window, stretching from Monday until October 14, is too brief for some candidates to be able to collect the required 25,000 signatures.

The movement believes, the statement read, that the narrow window is part of a “deliberate” process to hinder opposition candidates and prevent them from communicating effectively with the public.

The opposition coalition also said it is “strange and suspicious” that media outlets are circulating news and photos showing crowds lining up to endorse the incumbent president, noting that it is reminiscent of the 2018 presidential elections, in which Sisi ran and won against a pro-government candidate, while the other, more serious candidates were intimidated or jailed.

Former MP and former head of the Nasserist Karama Party, Ahmed al-Tantawi, who was the first to announce his campaign in May, said on Tuesday night he will suspend his campaign for 48 hours to reconsider his run amid the mounting arrests of his supporters. Since the nomination window opened, Tantawi’s supporters have been prevented from filing nominations at some real-estate registry offices. According to Tantawi, his campaign had only registered two filed nominations at the time of the presser.

Youssef Ibrahim, a Tantawi campaign member in Ain Shams, Cairo, told Mada Masr on Tuesday he was prevented by force from submitting his nomination at a real-estate registry office. Ibrahim said he was beaten and threatened by individuals who came to file nominations in favor of Sisi. Numerous similar testimonies circulated on social media on the same day.

Another source in the Tantawi campaign told Mada Masr that campaign members were also prevented from filing police reports on these incidents.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights issued a statement noting that it had documed the arrest of at least 73 Tantawi supporters across over half of the country’s governorates as of Tuesday.

However, a member of Tantawi’s campaign told Mada Masr that a number of his supporters in Egypt and abroad were able to submit their nominations on Wednesday and were met with a different attitude from the intimidation and rejection many faced on Tuesday. The campaign member said that the tally will be announced in a press conference tonight at 8pm. The source added that the campaign is still committed to the 48-hour suspension until further notice.

Similarly, posters on X indicated that the real-estate registry offices in the Marg, Hadayek al-Kobba, Basatin and Rehab areas of Cairo allowed applicants to file nomination forms for Tantawi without hindrance.

For her part, the head of the liberal Dostor Party, Gameela Ismail, posted a photo of “the first popular nomination form” supporting her candidacy.

As for Zahran, his campaign plans to rely on collecting 20 parliamentary endorsements instead of seeking popular nominations, utilizing his party’s seven MPs, as well as the MPs of “friendly parties,” as MP Maha Abdel Nasser told Adib in a call into Monday’s episode of his program.

Among these parties is the Justice Party, which has two sitting MPs and which already announced its support for Zahran’s candidacy, while noting in its statement that some party members favored boycotting the elections due to the lack of concrete political reforms.

In her call to Adib’s program, Abdel Nasser also rejected a purported copy of Zahran’s criminal record that claims he has rulings that prevent him from running for president, stating that the document is fake and affirming that his record is clear.

DMC channel aired a recorded interview on Monday between Zahran and anchor Osama Kamal. Sources told Mada Masr earlier this week that the interview was supposed to be a live broadcast, but was aired as a recording and got pushed back because it was under content review by DMC’s parent company, the intelligence-affiliated United Media Services.

During the interview, Zahran, who announced his prospective candidacy on Thursday, urged Egypt to move on from the“transition stage” in which he said the country has been since 2011 and toward a democratic transition.

In his Monday night episode, Adib commented on the Civil Democratic Movement not agreeing to gather around one of the three opposition candidates to run against Sisi, who is far ahead of them in fulfilling the nomination requirements.

With three candidates affiliated with the movement in the race, Mada Masr reached out to members of the opposition coalition to look into how the bloc would maneuver and handle the situation.

In a statement on Tuesday, Reform and Development Party head Mohamed Anwar Sadat called on the Armed Forces to monitor the upcoming presidential elections if Egypt does not invite international organizations to take on this role, calling on the military to sponsor and guarantee free and fair elections that are not engineered in advance.

Sadat cited the role of the Armed Forces in monitoring and supervising the presidential elections in 2012, in coordination with the elections authority, saying that the elections at the time “were praised by everyone for their integrity and impartiality.”

Meanwhile, Emad Gad, spokesperson of the Free Current Movement, a now-suspended coalition of liberal parties, reiterated his previous calling on former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mahmoud Hegazy to run for president and “save the country from a dark fate that threatens its security and stability.”

Gad added that he had previously asked Hegazy to run for the top job in 2014, because he believed either he or the late Military Production Minister Mohamed al-Assar were the only ones who could “bring Egypt to stability and transition to a modern, democratic, civil state.”

Check Also

Egypt warns of security, humanitarian repercussions of ground operations in Gaza

Egypt has raised alarm over the gravity as well as the unprecedented humanitarian and security …