Forecasting that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi will rule for a second term would not be a speculative argument: across different sectors, institutions and campaigns have expressed their support for him to continue serving and endorsement forms were collected on his behalf.
Al-Sisi has not yet officially announced his re-election bid for the presidency, instead delaying the declaration, saying he would run for the election if it is the will of the people, an approach he also adopted in the 2014 election.
However, on more than one occasion in 2017, the president vowed to present a list of accomplishments for his first term in office.
While it has yet to be presented, mobilisation for his election kicked off in the past weeks. It has been reported in local media that thousands of endorsement forms in support of Al-Sisi have been signed by citizens.
“`Alashan Nebniha” (so we can build it), is one of the largest campaigns calling on Al-Sisi to run for a second presidential term, launched by Future of a Nation Party. On 24 December, it announced obtaining signatures from 12 million citizens.
At the same time, there is a weak presence and representation of competitors. As the election is set to take place in nearly two months, by mid-March, it remains difficult to determine who the final candidates will be.
Mobilising to support the president
The media is currently under the tightest control in the years that followed the 2011 toppling of Hosni Mubarak and it continues to play a major role in mobilising support for Al-Sisi for the election.
Media ownership is in the hands of the state, supporting businesspersons, or former officials, widely believed to be linked to intelligence services.
Eagle Capital for Financial Investments, headed by former investment minister Dalia Khorshid, recently acquired the Egyptian Media Group which encompasses news websites, advertising agencies, and television networks. Other major networks are owned by state-allied businesspersons, while several independent news websites have been blocked.
Several opinion writers have been questioning the seriousness and possibility of other candidates that could compete with Al-Sisi, adding that despite the fact that political plurality is beneficial to the democratic process, none of them stand a real chance of obtaining public support.
TV narratives have been more or less sending the same message. On Tuesday, TV host Amr Adeeb said there was no presidential competition that would require the media to pave the way for Al-Sisi in the first place.
Adeeb even said that it was time to move to the next level and start discussing what would be required from the president in his second term.
With more than 500 members, the parliament is the largest civil institution supporting the regime, the army, and Al-Sisi, as the majority of its members announced their endorsement.
The 25-30 Alliance, which represents a minority opposition bloc inside parliament, said it would wait for the final official list of candidates before stating its stance.
Candidates and complicated bids
Most of those who presented themselves as candidates do not align with the current regime and are in turn unwelcome, despite that some enjoy public support to different extents.
To date, lawyer Khaled Ali is the only candidate in the presidential race, in terms of having officially announced his intention to run for the election and continued to be in the scene.
Ali held his third press conference since announcing his candidacy on Thursday where he claimed that he is “resisting dictatorship,” calling on his supporters to collect 25,000 endorsement forms—required for his candidacy by 25 January.
This does not mean that his candidacy is not threatened.
Ali, who led a long battle against the government over the maritime border agreement with Saudi Arabia and succeeded in obtaining a State Council verdict rejecting the transfer of Egypt’s sovereignty over the Red Sea islands Tiran and Sanafir, is facing a court case which—if it ends in his conviction—would make him no longer eligible as a presidential candidate, according to the law.
In September, Ali was sentenced by a misdemeanours court to three months in prison for indecent behaviour, as he was accused of displaying a gesture, described by critics as obscene, in a public gathering outside the court after the verdict in his favour in the islands case. His appeals case is scheduled for 7 March, in the middle the election timetable.
Ali first declared in a press conference on 6 November his decision to launch an electoral campaign. His statement focused on “crises” Egypt is facing and described his vision as a “collective social struggle” based on upholding values of democracy, citizenship, social justice, and human rights.
The outline of his declared programme included the evaluation of the impact of national mega projects, currently under execution, on the economy, raising the minimum wage in the public sector to EGP 2,000, a tax reform system, the end of privatisation policies, improvement of the health insurance bill currently under discussion in parliament, supporting agriculture, restoring the Nubian people to their lands as per the constitution, integrating Sinai residents into development, releasing detainees whose temporary custody exceeded legal periods, the issuance of presidential pardons for prisoners of protest charges, unblocking websites, and stopping the maritime border agreement.
Ali, a former candidate in the 2012 election, has become an enemy in the eyes of the current president’s supporters. He has been repeatedly slammed by pro-state media. In return, Ali accused the regime of implementing different means aimed at pressuring him to withdraw from the race, including the “fabrication” of a court case.
As the rival candidate who closest to president-elect Mohamed Morsi in 2012, the Mubarak-era former aviation minister, prime minsiter, and military pilot Ahmed Shafiq enjoyed a large presence on the political scene.
Although unofficially declared, media reports indicated that Shafiq’s return to Egypt from the UAE, to which he fled escaping legal prosecution over corruption charges after the 2011 revolution, was unwelcome by the current regime which saw him as a potential threat.
On 29 November, the rivalry became official: Shafiq decided to challenge Al-Sisi and announced his bid for presidency, in exclusive statements to Reuters.
In a video he published on YouTube, Shafiq said he believed he would be able to overcome existing problems through the immediate implementation of democracy and human rights principles.
Confusing events quickly followed.
The next day, Al-Jazeera published a video statement where Shafiq claimed he was barred from leaving the UAE as he planned a tour to reach out to Egyptian communities abroad before returning to Egypt.
The video sparked controversy in Egypt, especially amid hostility towards the Qatari network and official denial by the UAE of the accusations. On 2 December, Shafiq was deported to Egypt amid further unclear circumstances, where it was reported that he was put under house arrest and concerns around his whereabouts were voiced by his lawyer and family, while Shafiq publicly denied his movements were restricted.
Regardless of assertions of proceeding with his candidacy put forward by him and the political party of which he is president—The National Movement Party—Shafiq eventually withdrew from the race.
On 7 January, Shafiq issued a statement through his official page on Facebook stating that he would not participate in the electoral race. He explained that he had been unable to see the “developments and achievements on the ground” being away from the country for five years. His post stirred a mix of supporting and ironic reactions by social media users.
In statements to Dream TV, Shafiq said he was not and could not be pressured to drop out, saying he calculated the benefits and losses and concluded that “a more suitable man could continue the journey.”
Shafiq had spoken about the islands case in statements to Dream TV in June, where he asserted Egypt’s sovereignty over the islands despite him claiming the opposite in 2016. Programme host Wael Al-Ibrashy did not appear on TV for months despite denials by the channel that he had been suspended.
The short-lived story of military officer Ahmed Konsowa’s bid for presidency took an unexpected turn of events. A couple of weeks after he announced his intention to run, Konsowa is now serving a six-year prison sentence issued by a military court.
Through his Facebook account—now deactivated—Konsowa presented himself as “the alternative” and launched a hashtag called “Egypt hope.” His announcement came around the same time of Shafiq’s.
He confirmed his respect for the constitution and the goals of “the revolutions of 25 January and 30 June.” Konsowa claimed he had been subject to autocratic measures by the state since he first tried to resign from the military in March 2014 but maintained his pride of belonging to the institution.
In an eloquent speech given in Arabic and English, Konsowa appeared in his military uniform saying: “I proudly declare that I have decided to unlock the current political deadlock…it is no secret that I’ve spent more than three years and a half in courts suing the government in 11 lawsuits…to obtain [the] constitutional right of political participation to run for various elections.”
Konsowa added that he did not belong to any party or faction on the scene and that he would implement an “ambitious roadmap” as opposed to “counterproductive and outdated policies” which “fuel extremism and discontent.”
A few weeks later, Konsowa was charged with violating military laws for engaging in political discourse while still in service.
According to several media reports, Konsowa took a stance against the maritime border agreement and challenged laws banning army or police officers from participating in parliamentary elections.
A detailed December report published by “Ida2at” website traced the content of previously little-known Konsowa’s Facebook account in the past eight years, concluding he supported “the initiative to change” brought by former vice president Mohamed Baradei, opposed the Muslim Brotherhood, encouraged 30 June, and respected political activists including Wael Ghoneim, Alaa Abdel Fattah, and April 6 Youth Movement.
Mohamed Anwar Sadat
A former member of the current parliament, Sadat was expelled earlier this year with a majority of votes. He had gradually become a political dissident. In an interview with Daily News Egypt in May 2016, Sadat complained about supporters of the president discrediting and distrusting people of differing opinions.
Sadat’s experience in parliament was short-lived. After serving for one year as the head of the Human Rights Committee, he was pressured to resign.
Following several critiques Sadat made of parliament, he faced backlash from Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal who accused him of distorting the image of the parliament before foreign entities, after which he was internally investigated and lost his membership.
Sadat’s tone became more and more critical of government performance and regime policies and he remains in dispute with the speaker.
A Reuters report had pointed out in October that Sadat intended to run in the election, after the “current leadership has stifled freedom of expression so tightly, the only way to criticize the government and address the country’s ills is to run for president.”
Sadat said in TV statements that he would make his announcement on Monday, but he already sent out a request issued by his electoral campaign to Abdel Aal in order to meet with MPs to collect endorsement signatures.
Moreover, in a letter sent to the National Electoral Commission in December, Sadat accused the national security apparatus of blocking his reservation of a conference room in a hotel.
Last but not least, conflicting news recently surfaced about the possibility that former chief of staff Sami Anan may join the race. His candidacy was previously floated during the 2014 election, which he eventually did not run for.
20-29 January: Candidates submit applications
31 January: Preliminary list to be published
1-2 February: Electoral commission receives objections to candidacies
6 February: Commission notifies excluded candidates, noring reasons. Candidates’ appeals will follow
22 February: Deadline to withdraw candidacy
24 February-13 March: Electoral campaigns
14-15 March: Silence period
16-18 March: Egyptians abroad vote
26-28 March: Egyptians in Egypt vote
2 April: First round results announced
If needed, a second round would start in mid-April.