Sama al-Masry is a belly dancer, singer and television host, who ran the “Feloul” channel (a reference to remnants of the old regime). Her videos have been criticized by some for being too provocative. She was sentenced to six months in prison in a libel suit against the head of Zamalek football club and controversial media figure Mortada Mansour, but was found innocent on appeal. She is running for the Gamaleya and Manshiyet Nasser seat in Cairo in the upcoming 2015 parliamentary elections.
Why are you interested in running in the elections?
I was in Holland for a ceremony recognizing my work, and people there asked me, why don’t you run for parliament and channel your activities through an effective assembly, instead of just singing or running TV shows.
So, for example, instead of just singing about harassment, I could push for legislation against it in parliament. I was also told I am audacious and could summon a minister easily and interrogate him.
What would your priorities be if you were to win a seat in parliament?
I wouldn’t make any legislation per se, but I would give my opinions. My main mission is to hold the government to account. My first priority is health, so I plan to enquire with the minister of health about the problems faced by the people of Manshiyet Nasser, Azbakeya and Gamaleya. Diseases are spreading, there is no proper sanitation and hospitals are not humane.
Education is my second priority, and women, especially those who are breadwinners. I would like to find ways to support small economic projects for women’s employment. I would also like to find solutions for street children, by providing them with education and jobs in which they can learn a craft.
Who is supporting your candidacy?
I am alone in this, without the backing of any party. Some emerging parties wanted me to join them when they heard I was running. But I feel that parties, coalitions and lists will take more from me than I would from them, because they would be counting on my popularity and the spotlight I would bring them. So, I said why should anyone control me. I like to be advised but not controlled.
Do you feel there is the political context for your success in a free and fair election?
Egypt is still heading toward democracy. This is why I am getting a lot of criticism over my candidacy. I can’t say that the process will be 100 percent clean and fair, and I don’t think it will be for many years to come. Capital and nepotism continue to dominate the process.
How competitive do you think this election will be?
The candidates running against me are all members of the formerly ruling National Democratic Party. I don’t blame them, even though I disagree with them. It’s their right to run, even though the people overthrew them in the January 25, 2011 revolution. They will use their power, their relationships and their political expertise in the election process. But, I am not worried. If I fail, I will have exercised my right to participate. Also, as an artist, I will have the backing of the people who support and love me.