Sisi’s campaign distributes energy-saving lightbulbs to the poor
Published Monday, May 19, 2014
Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s campaign is pro- saving, and is distributing energy-saving lightbulbs to the poor. Some have interpreted this as a bribe, but the campaign is still forging ahead with the distribution under the pretext that it has not been informed of any decision by the Election Commission.
Cairo: The High Presidential Election Commission finally broke its silence regarding the legal violations by Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s campaign. It accused the campaign of violating the law by distributing 30,000 energy-saving lightbulbs. The commission considered this action an electoral bribe. The High Presidential Election Commission’s secretary general, Chancellor Abdel Aziz Salman, said the election law criminalizes distributing gifts to voters so as not to influence them, stressing that Sisi’s campaign violated the law. This was the first official notice issued by the commission against Sisi’s campaign since the start of the presidential race late last March.
Judicial sources told Al-Akhbar that the commission does not want to take any legal action against any of the candidates at this point. It is content with issuing verbal warnings just like it did not take any action against the other presidential contender, Hamdeen Sabahi, when he presented the outlines of his electoral program two days before the official start of the campaigns.
The Youth Committee affiliated with Sisi’s campaign began distributing 30,000 energy-saving light bulbs at a cost of US$ 380,000 or 2.7 million Egyptian pounds based on the Egyptian market price. This amount is 10 percent more than what a candidate is allowed to spend during the campaign, which is set at 20 million Egyptian pounds according to the law. Chief advertising advisor, Tarek Nour, announced that Sisi’s campaign spent 12 million Egyptian pounds from the start of the campaign until five days ago.
Head of Sisi’s campaign Youth Committee, Tarek al-Kholy, said that the campaign was not officially informed of any decision by the High Presidential Election Commission, adding that “the commission could not possibly be influenced by what is published in the media.” Kholy, who did not deny the news that the campaign distributed lightbulbs, confirmed in an interview with Al-Akhbar that they will continue to distribute the energy-saving bulbs as long as they have not received official correspondence from the Election Commission. He stressed that all claims about “sanctions against the campaign” by the commission have no basis and are just rumors.
The opinion of the High Presidential Election Commission that distributing light bulbs amounts to bribes, which is a crime under the law, was confirmed by the former head of the press syndicate Makram Mohammed Ahmed in televised statements. He criticized Sisi’s campaign for this action despite the noble goal of providing citizens with these bulbs in an effort to conserve energy, of which there is a dire lack of in Egypt.
Sisi’s campaign continues its work on the ground. Campaign pictures in support of the former army chief can be seen everywhere on Egyptian streets. Campaign billboards for his opponent Sabahi, however, are nowhere to be seen on the streets of Cairo, except in very few cases. In those instances, there is a timid presence through the official campaign only, given the financial crises the supporting political parties are going through. Most of the large campaign billboards are decorated with Sisi’s pictures and signed by the Popular Campaign to support him, including one signed by former members of the dissolved National Democratic Party.
Political parties who declared their support for Sisi, like the National Movement party headed by Lieutenant General Ahmed Shafik, and the Free Egyptians party funded by the businessman Naguib Sawiris, have spent lavishly on advertising campaigns to showcase their support.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.