Egypt: A Thousand and One Presidential Tales

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Egyptian presidential candidate hopeful and lawyer Mohsen Hafez Ismail, leaves after registering his name for the presidential election which will be held on May 23 and 24, in Cairo 11 March 2012. (Photo: REUTERS - Esam Al-Fetori)

By: Bisan Kassab, Rana Mamdouh

Published Monday, March 26, 2012

The number of people vying to succeed Mubarak as President of Egypt has topped one thousand. Here’s a sample of some candidates who will not win in the May 23 elections.

Cairo – “The first heaven is one of seven, each one thousands of times bigger than the one before.” This religious conviction is part of Hadeeb Khalifa’s election program.

He is an aeronautical engineer who has put himself forward as a presidential candidate. His program involves the abolition of all taxes, in addition to customs fees and revenues, because “life on earth is merely an indulgence of vanity.”

According to his program, Khalifa is a student of “divine miracles and harmony, religions, physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, geology, oil, renewable energy, the environment, marketing, business administration, project management, client management, history, philosophy, Egyptian and international literature, sociology, psychology, and strategic military policy.”

While Khalifa describes the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, as a “tyrant,” presidential candidate Rifat Ahmad al-Shaer – a teacher who specializes in memorizing the Quran at al-Azhar – is calling for the former president to be pardoned. He goes so far as to describe him as the commander of the faithful.

Mubarak also features in candidate Ahmad Moghrebi Qassim’s justifications for joining the race. Apparently, the ex-president visited the man in a “vision” while he was asleep, 20 years ago.

Mubarak laid his hand on Qassim’s shoulder and told him: “I have entrusted you, Ahmad, so safeguard my trust.” The village sheikh interpreted this vision to mean that Mubarak will cease to rule after 20 years and that he would succeed him.

The drama of the presidential candidates reached its peak when the Higher Committee for the Election issued the following statement: “The security forces in charge of the headquarters of the Presidential Elections Committee have arrested a man who came inquired about the conditions and documents required to become a presidential candidate. He was carrying a substance that looked like the drug bango.”

A reformed thief has also put himself forward as a candidate. On a famous television show, he introduced himself as someone who could help anyone who wanted to protect their home against burglaries.

There is also Sasa the mechanic, who defended his candidacy qualifications in an interview with Al-Rai newspaper saying: “I do not see anything wrong with my job, and there is already an honorable example in Brazilian president Lula Da Silva.”

Muhammad Rabih Eid Hassan has also put himself forward. His election program includes the demand that Egypt’s first lady be elected every year.

Another candidate, Adel Abideen, wants to restore the monarchy. He has a very simple reason. The man, who is also known as Adel Farouk, claims that he is the son of King Farouk, the last king of Egypt before the republic was formed in the 1950s. He claims he is the result of a secret marriage between the king and the star, Camilia, who died in a plane crash.

The record number of presidential candidates, who have put themselves forward, has now exceeded 1,000. Each one is trying to grab a niche cause to promote their campaign.

Alaa Abdul Fattah, for example, is the “anti-smoking” candidate. He says that his program includes a tax of one Egyptian pound on every packet of cigarettes.

When one engages these candidates directly, they often reveal a pessimism about winning the elections.

Muhammad Nasr, the owner of a restaurant, admits in an interview with Al-Akhbar that at best all he hopes for is to gain 5 percent of the votes. He says that all his life he has been content with the role of being a political observer.

“I mean I used to watch politics from afar only...But I learned about it by overhearing the politicians who visited my restaurant,” he adds.

Nasr explains that he will not try to collect the 30,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot, according to the presidential elections law.

He will rely on another option, provided for under the law, which is to secure the support of a political party represented in parliament. He refuses to reveal which party, but says that it is a small one.

According to Sami Ibrahim Hanouti, who is also trying to become a candidate, the guidelines that must be followed are “impossible.” He promises to file an international case against the presidential candidates electoral law.

The General Secretary of the Presidential Elections Committee, Hatem Bagato, told Al-Akhbar that these rules are important because they guarantee the seriousness of presidential elections, particularly because they state that a candidate must obtain the support of 30,000 citizens, or the agreement of 30 members of parliament or the Shura Council, in order to get on the presidential ballot.

A candidate can also get on the voting ballot if nominated by one of the parties on condition that the party has been able to secure at least one seat in parliament.

Bagato says that only four candidates have met these conditions. They are Ahmad Muhammad Awad Alb, the general director of Islamic and Coptic antiquities in upper Egypt. He secured the nomination of the Egyptian National Party, founded by Talat al-Sadat, the ex-deputy head of parliament, before his death.

Also, Abul Izz Hassan al-Hariri, a member of parliament, secured the support of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party. Muhammad Fawzi, representing al-Geel party, and Hussam Khairallah, the ex-deputy of the intelligence services, representing the Democratic Peace Party, have also met the necessary conditions.

In general, the statements made by the candidates are dominated by points that are presented as development or practical ideas, not political ones.

This is the case with civil servant Huwayda Farouq, who wants to run “so that the young people in Egypt have to learn a trade.”

Businessman Mahmoud Ramadan, whose program includes 349 promises, is even discussing “the problem of entering and exiting through the doors of underground trains.”

Among the promises made by Ramadan is that Egypt will achieve “self-sufficiency in wheat,” which is the reason Mahmoud Sherif, the ex-minister for local administration, put himself forward as a candidate.

He believes that achieving self-sufficiency in wheat production and reclaiming a large proportion of agricultural land will offer a great deal of work opportunities for young people. This, according to him, will solve most of Egypt’s problems.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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