Presidential hopeful Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat claims National Security Agency prevented party from holding conference
 
 
Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat - Courtesy: Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat's Facebook page
 

In a letter sent to the National Elections Authority (NEA) on Wednesday, addressed to Judge Lasheen Ibrahim and obtained by Mada Masr, presidential hopeful and leader of the Reform and Development Party Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat claimed that his party has been prevented from organizing a press conference by the National Security Agency.

Sadat, who has indicated that he may be running in the upcoming presidential elections — slated to take place in 2018 — demanded in the letter that measures be taken to “guarantee the integrity of the elections.”

“The issue is not about finding a place to hold a conference. I can do that in the party headquarters or in my hometown of Mit Abu al-Kom. Rather, it is an issue of guaranteeing the integrity of the elections, for me and for other candidates,” the nephew of former President Anwar Sadat tells Mada Masr. “I sent this letter to hold the head of the National Elections Authority accountable.”

The letter was sent following an unsuccessful attempt to book a conference hall in the Steigenberger Hotel in downtown Cairo on January 13, according to Sadat.

“This hotel had initially sent us several offers for prices to book, but the day after, we were told that the National Security Agency refused to allow the hotel to confirm the booking without its approval,” he wrote.

The same thing took place with two other hotels, including the Ritz Carlton, which informed the campaign that all its halls were fully booked until after the elections, Sadat tells Mada Masr.

The letter also stated that two public campaigns supporting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for a second term have been able to hold press conferences, with the support of government agencies.

This was the third letter sent to the NEA by Sadat, who had also contacted the elections body on October 15 and 23. In the first letter, Sadat had requested the authority allow candidates to officially contact members of parliament.

“According to Article 142 of the Constitution, a presidential candidate must be endorsed by at least 20 members of parliament. For this to happen, Parliament must open its doors to candidates or their representatives to present their programs and collect signatures in an official capacity,” Sadat wrote. “There has been no public announcement of this thus far.”

Sadat, who is also a former member of Parliament, added that he could have directly contacted former colleagues in Parliament but he opted to send the letter instead in order to raise the issue of candidates’ constitutional rights.

In the 2012 elections, representatives for candidates were allowed to publicly campaign in Parliament and were able to collect signatures and endorsements, Sadat stated. “I personally endorsed Amr Moussa when I was an MP, at the time.”

Sadat was expelled from Parliament in February following allegations that he forged the signatures of fellow MPs on two pieces of legislation he submitted. Parliament’s legislative affairs committee also accused Sadat of providing foreign organizations, including the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), with information on its internal affairs.

Sadat raised two other concerns in his first letter: First, he noted that his supporters were told by government employees that the National Security Agency collects names of citizens who publicly endorse presidential candidates. Second, he demanded an end to the state of emergency during the elections.

In the second letter, Sadat alleged that state institutions were biased against presidential candidates running against Sisi. “Sisi supporters were allowed into government authorities all over Egypt to promote for his unofficial campaign for a second term and collect signatures,” said Sadat, who added that “this is illegal.”

“When members of my campaign attempted doing the same thing, they were not allowed to enter these government entities. They were threatened and told that the presidential race has not officially started yet,” he claimed.

Meanwhile, regarding his campaign plans, Sadat had told Mada Masr in a previous interview that his campaigners are still surveying certain governorates to gauge people’s response.

My platform is centered around the principles of citizenship and equal opportunity, with a special focus on realizing the freedoms of individuals and institutions, an independent judicial system, a free Parliament and media plurality. It will also include a strategy to counter terrorism that engages the public and all state agencies,” he said.

“The platform is also concerned with altering the security system’s mindset; rather than serving the regime, it will serve the people. Rebuilding trust between the people and state agencies is also a key point. Combating high prices with market control, as well as increasing the education and health budgets, are two central concerns.”

Sadat stated that he will fulfill both criteria stipulated by the Constitution to qualify for the presidential race. “I will collect 25,000 endorsements from citizens in 15 different governorates, and 20 endorsements from MPs,” he said.

The electoral campaign of another presidential hopeful, Khaled Ali, argued during a press conference on Tuesday that a number of measures need to be implemented to ensure that the upcoming presidential elections are fair.

These measures include: Ending the block on hundreds of websites in Egypt, giving candidates the right to hold conferences and publicize their campaigns without fear of retribution under the protest or assembly laws, and an end to the use of public funds to support Sisi’s candidacy.

Several potential candidates have allegedly faced various forms of intimidation before the presidential race has even begun.

Ali’s candidacy in the upcoming elections is dependent on the verdict issued by an appeals court, which is due to review a three-month sentence issued by Dokki Misdemeanor Court, over allegations that he made an inappropriate hand gesture. A conviction could strip him of the opportunity to participate in elections, either as a candidate or voter.

Former Mubarak-era minister Ahmed Shafiq was reportedly arrested on December 2 and deported from the United Arab Emirates, where he had been residing since 2012, after he announced his intention to run for presidency. After he arrived in Egypt, his family told media outlets that his whereabouts were unknown. The former minister resurfaced later that evening during a televised phone interview with talk show host Wael al-Ibrashy, saying he was reconsidering his decision to run.

A military court sentenced Armed Forces Colonel Ahmed Konsowa to six years in prison on December 19 after he announced his intention to run in the elections. Konsowa was initially interrogated on December 2 and subsequently referred to military prosecution, before being tried before the North Cairo Military Court. Konsowa said in the video that he has been attempting to resign from his post in the Armed Forces since current President Sisi, then defense minister, announced his own intention to run in the 2014 presidential elections.

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Mostafa Mohie