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Egypt presidential campaigning under way - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A tourist buys a poster of Egypt's army chief, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is also pictured on a shirt, at a vendor in Tahrir square in Cairo February 22, 2014. (Reuters/Asmaa Waguih)

A tourist buys a poster of Egypt’s army chief, Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who is also pictured on a shirt, at a vendor in Tahrir square in Cairo February 22, 2014. (Reuters/Asmaa Waguih)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—The presidential election campaigns of Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Hamdeen Sabahi got under way in earnest this weekend as the Egyptian Higher Presidential Election Commission is set to announce the official election timetable Sunday evening.

Sabahi supporters held a number of rallies across the country on Saturday to back the Nasserist candidate after popular former defense minister and head of the armed forces Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi officially announced that he would be standing for president earlier this week. Sabahi supporters also formed human chain across a number of public squares in Cairo in support of the underdog candidate.

Most analysts expect Sisi to win any popular vote. Both he and Sabahi are the only Egyptian candidates to throw their hats into the electoral ring after other prominent Egyptian politicians ruled themselves out of the race. Former presidential candidates Amr Moussa, Ahmed Shafiq, Mohamed El-Baradei and Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh have all said they will not stand, as has former Army Chief of Staff Sami Anan, with the majority of Egyptian political figures backing a Sisi presidency.

Sources within the Sisi campaign told Asharq Al-Awsat that they are in the process of holding meetings to choose a campaign team and start work. The Sisi campaign will establish a “senior advisory council” made up of prominent Egyptian figures in different fields to “consult” with Sisi while “youth activists” will set up a grass-roots organization endorsing the former army chief’s candidacy, the sources said.

In the speech officially announcing his intention to stand for the presidency, Sisi said he did not intend to launch a “traditional” presidential election campaign.

“With complete openness, and in the circumstances you all know about, I am not going to launch a presidential campaign in the traditional sense. However, it is your right to share in my vision of the future. This will be, as I see it, a clear platform that seeks a modern and democratic Egypt . . . I will not conduct an extravagant campaign, whether in words, funds or practices, as this is not suitable at present,” he said.

Sisi has named former ambassador Mahmoud Karem as General Campaign Coordinator. Karem previously served as Egypt’s permanent representative to NATO, as well as ambassador to Japan and Belgium. Veteran Egyptian statesman Amr Moussa and leading Egyptian journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal are reportedly on the Sisi senior advisory committee. The Sisi campaign source confirmed that “politicians, economists, professors, former MPs and other specialists in different fields” will also “consult” for the campaign.

Asharq Al-Awsat has also learnt that the Sisi campaign will seek to include other prominent Egyptian figures on its advisory council, including former Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Ahmed Kamel, former Assistant Foreign Minister Ashraf Rashed, well-known Economics professor Dr. Soad Kamel, Egyptian Student Union president Mohamed Badran, as well as other figures such as political strategist Mohamed Hegazy, political expert Amr Al-Shobki, youth activist Tamer Wagih and film director Khaled Youssef.

Many analysts believe that Amr Moussa, himself a former presidential candidate, will play a strong role for Sisi on the campaign trail, and he previously announced his support of a Sisi candidacy to Asharq Al-Awsat. The former Arab League secretary-general said: “Sisi’s program proposes moving on two axes: the first is to rebuild the state on modern foundations by implementing the articles of the 2014 constitution, which was passed by the Egyptian people in a public referendum; and the second axis relies on the inclusion of the people in the optimism for the future, which aims at achieving comprehensive development, and putting people in the picture transparently, regarding the economic situation of the country.”