Experts speculate over Egypt’s next presidential candidate

The referundum on Egypt's new constitution will be held on the 14 and 15 of January 2014

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As Egyptians mull over the newly drafted charter, the future political roadmap for the country remains unclear with no official decision made on when the presidential elections will be held.

The announcement on Saturday by interim President Adli Mansour that the referendum on the new constitution will be held on 14 and 15 January 2014 will inevitably raise speculations over potential presidential candidates who will lead Egypt forward.

Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabbahi has recently announced he will run for the upcoming elections, but experts are questioning his chances of success and those of other ex-presidential candidates.

Sabbahi, who came third in Egypt’s presidential elections in 2012, made the announcement during an interview with the Egyptian private satellite TV channel CBC on Tuesday. However, he maintained that the decision will rely on an agreement between secular political parties to nominate one candidate as the ‘revolutionary’ representative.

Some experts view Sabbahi’s decision as ‘irrational.’

“Sabbahi is now a useless card. Given his political and social skills as well as his economic strategies, the highest position Sabbahi can aim for is maybe president of the parliament, Magles el Shaab”, according to Mohammed Badr, a political science professor at the University of Germany and a Specialist in the Middle East relations.

Furthermore, the political landscape since 2011 “has changed for him a lot since then,” he added.

“The advantages that Hamdin had during the previous elections will not play in his favor this time anymore,” Badr said.

“The important support [Sabbahi] had from the Egyptians was mainly due to the fact that most of them did not want to see the Brotherhood take over nor anyone who reminded them of the old [Mubarak] regime,” he added.

Sisi vs. Sabbahi

Experts believe Sabbahi’s presidential bid could fail mainly due to the “Sisi effect”. They anticipate that if Egypt’s army chief General Abdel Fatah el Sisi runs he will “triumphantly win,” because Egyptians see him as ‘the candidate’ , writer and journalist journalist Abdel Latif el-Menawy told Al Arabiya News.

“[Sabbahi] has no chance at all, especially if General Abdel Fatah el Sisi presents himself [as a candidate],” Badr agrees.

Sisi has gained popularity after he led the ousting of Islamist President Mohammad Mursi in July following mass protests against his rule.

Since then, campaigns have been urging Sisi to present himself, and the army chief has not ruled out the possibility of running for presidency.

According to analysts, if Sisi decides to nominate himself, chances are he would be the sweeping winner.

“Sisi is the hero of this revolution, the one who protected the Egyptian population from terrorism. He is an emblem for Egypt,” Ali Hassan, Deputy Editor in Chief, at the London- based daily, Al Sharq al Awsat, told Al Arabiya News.

“Most of the supporters of the June 30 revolution as well as some influential political figures will be supporting Gen. Abdel Fatah al Sisi,” Hassan added.

Despite the widespread criticism of Sabbahi's announcement, some are actually more optimistic about Sabbahi’s candidacy, and believe he could potentially be Egypt’s next president. That is, if General Sisi does not run for the position.

“Sabbahi has his chances if Sisi is not a election candidate”, El-Menawy said.

El-Menawy believes that Sabbahi is a popular figurehead amongst Egyptian youth and the lower social classes, which combined, represent a large share of the Egyptian population.

“Sabbahi ows his popularity mainly thanks to Egyptians aged 18-25 who don’t know much about Nasserism and what it means,” el-Menawy said.

“They see Sabbahi as a new face that does not belong to the Brotherhood [one] and that is opposed to the old [Mubarak] government,” he continued.

“He also has influence on working class people who represent a large part of the Egyptian population… he knows how to talk to them about social justice and evoke their interest”, El-Menawy added.

Alternative candidates

Additional politicians have also stepped forward as potential candidates for the upcoming presidential elections.

Abdel Moneim Abou el Fotouh, former presidential candidate, mentioned that he was deeply considering to run for president in the 2014 elections, during an interview last month with Al Arabiya correspondent, Randa Abo el Azm.

“Abou el Fotouh will gain the votes of all Islamists, including Salafist,” el-Manawy said.

Egypt’s former Chief of Staff, General Sami Anan, is also seen as a potential candidate.

Experts, however, remain divided over the possibility of Mohammad al Baradei becoming president. “He might be able to gather a large number of votes especially from the voters that previously opted for the Muslim Brotherhood figureMohammad Mursi,” Badr commented.

However, many believe Baradei’s decision to remove himself from the political scene after the June 30th revolution hurt the credibility of the 2005 Nobel Prize winner

So far, no official announcements have been made regarding the candidates for Egypt’s 2014 presidential elections.

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