Egyptians went to polling stations on Monday to cast their votes in the presidential election, to choose between incumbent President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who is widely expected to secure a second four-year term in office, and little-known politician Moussa Mostafa Moussa, who strongly supports him.
Moussa, head of the pro-government El-Ghad Party, has a long history of supporting the sitting president. He launched a campaign urging Al-Sisi to run for president, dubbed “Kamel Gemilak” (Finish What You Started) in 2014, a call from Al-Sisi supporters for him to continue his efforts in stabilising Egypt following the military ouster of his predecessor Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader. In 2016, before Moussa decided to run for the presidential election, he was calling on Al-Sisi to run for a second term as part of the “Al-Moayedoon” (The Supporters) campaign.
On 29 January 2018, Moussa unexpectedly announced his bid for the presidency, after all significant candidates had withdrawn from the race, some willingly and others not, which prompted speculation that he was commanded to run. An official from his party was captured by cameras as he submitted Moussa’s official documents at the National Electoral Commission (NEC) right before the deadline for potential candidates’ applications.
Before the higher committee of El-Ghad Party officially nominated its leader for the presidential race, it had earlier announced its support for Al-Sisi for a second term, organising events to call on people to vote for him. Meanwhile, screenshots of a Facebook page reportedly belonging to Moussa show its cover photo featuring Al-Sisi, with a caption beneath it declaring, “we support you as president of Egypt.”
Moussa has said that he registered his candidacy after having collected the required number of nomination pledges, claiming that he netted 47,000 signatories and the backing of 27 lawmakers who did not pledge support for Al-Sisi.
In the presidential race, Moussa has been wildly seen as a “puppet” who showed up to save the day after all candidates had exited the election, in order to prevent the presidential polls from turning into a referendum. However, Moussa has continuously refused being called a “stunt,” saying he has a significant election programme which aims to improve the standards of living for Egyptians.
Albeit the El-Ghad chairperson running against Al-Sisi, he had once said that he cannot compete with the huge popularity of his opponent, noting in an interview with state-run newspaper Al-Ahram that the Egyptian people will not easily accept a competitor to their current president. He went on to say that he set up a programme on developing a “nationalist capitalist” economy, which he said carries major benefits for Egyptians, especially for youth, including tackling soaring prices. He added that there was no need for a debate with Al-Sisi, as the former general has already made “huge achievements,” whereas Moussa said he has a programme “based on economic mechanisms.”
The economic programme shall “contribute to solving the problems of women who are the breadwinners of their families and farmers, promote development programmes for people with special needs, rehabilitate homeless street children and integrate them into society, and end the traffic congestion crisis,” the campaign’s pamphlet reads.
His election programme also includes plans for the health, education, and tourism sectors, as well as foreign and international relations. “He and his party participated in the 25 January 2011 revolution and in the 30 June 2013 revolution in solidarity with the Egyptian people in redefining and reclaiming their rights,” reads a promotional pamphlet of him.
The presidential hopeful was born on 13 April 1952 in Giza. He is a son of prominent leader and politician Mostafa Moussa, who was a member of the Nationalist Liberal Party (Wafd) during the 40s and 50s of last century. Moussa, who is a father of three, has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in engineering from a university in Versailles, France, as mentioned in his pamphlet, even though he widely reported that he did not obtain a university degree. However, the NEC said that it has confirmed the validity of Moussa’s educational certificates, thus allowing him to run for the presidency.
Moussa ran for a parliamentary seat in 2010 but failed to win that race, and allegedly announced his intention to run for president in 2012 and 2014.
He has led the El-Ghad Party since 2005, after its founder and chairperson, politician Ayman Nour, failed to beat ousted President Hosni Mubark in the 2005 presidential election. Infighting broke out between Nour and Moussa, which ended with Moussa assuming the party’s leadership.
In 2008, with the continuing conflict between the supporters of the two politicians within the party, El-Ghad’s headquarters was set on fire. Politician, activist, and Nour’s ex-wife Gameela Ismail accused Moussa’s supporters of setting fire to the building.
The obscure politician has gained various nicknames in local and international media following his run in the election race, including “last minute candidate,” “dummy candidate,” “the puppet,” and “the stunt”. He has been interviewed by local media more than Al-Sisi, but on the streets, his exposure has not fared as well. Compared to Al-Sisi’s enormous campaign advertisements sweeping Egyptian cities, especially Cairo, with banners featuring his photographs with messages supporting him from business owners, Moussa only has a few banners set up, mostly from his party. The El-Ghad Party organised a march in support of him, with only about 16 people participating, most of them journalists.
Moussa refuses to be interviewed by international media, because he “know[s] well their intentions,” as he previously said in an interview with Al-Ahram, adding that foreign media will use his interviews against Al-Sisi and the state.
He urged Egyptians to vote, stating at a press conference this month that Egypt is facing an “invisible enemy,” adding that they should not take heed of calls to boycott the election. Moussa is expecting 50% of all voters to turnout; not less than 30 million people. He says he does not care how many Egyptians will cast their votes in his favour, as he said he is participating in the election with hopes of an “honourable representation,” but said he aspires to gain 50% of all votes.