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Presidential elections in Egypt: An opportunity for Revolutionaries?

Presidential elections in Egypt are scheduled to take place in mid-December. The military dictator, Abdel Fattah el Sisi, who has ruled since 2013, has announced that he is running for president once again. Sisi, who is supported both by the German government and the European Union and who came to power in a military coup, has squashed the political opposition over the past decade.

Egypt can be described as a graveyard for political freedom. Tens of thousands of political prisoners are in Egyptian prisons and countless opposition figures are in exile. In addition, the economic situation in Egypt is deteriorating more and more daily. As Sisi builds a new capital in the desert, most Egyptians can no longer afford basic foods. Inflation is at a record high.

Egypt has devalued its currency three times since March 2022 and also agreed to a more flexible exchange rate in October last year in order to receive an aid package from the International Monetary Fund. The Egyptian pound’s official exchange rate is currently over 30 pounds (some estimates say over 40 pounds) per US dollar, compared to around 15 per dollar at the beginning of last year.

In light of the tense political and economic situation, Sisi recently called on Egyptians to sell their blood twice a week if they needed more money. Regarding the rising food prices, he said that Egyptians could just eat and drink less. Of course, this suggestion did not include Sisi and the ruling class, because there is enough to eat and drink in their villas and palaces.

Sisi, who has silenced political opposition, fears a mass movement against his reign. This is reflected in the regime’s reaction to the announcement of opposition figure Ahmed Tantawi’s candidacy in the presidential elections. The Nasserist Tantawi was a former parliamentarian who also spent a while in exile. He is the only opposition candidate who takes a clear position against Sisi. That is why over 70 of his campaign workers, including four lawyers, have been arrested in the past few weeks.

To qualify for a presidential candidacy, each potential candidate must either be supported by at least 20 sitting members of parliament or collect nomination petitions from at least 25,000 citizens from at least 15 governorates, with at least 1,000 supporters per governorate.

However, Egyptian authorities have largely hindered Egyptians who want to fill out or submit a nomination petition to do so. There have been many reports of people rallying at the responsible headquarters to apply for a nomination petition yet being hindered from doing so. Yet more and more people are demanding to apply for nomination petitions, with success. Tantawi’s campaign is currently being supported by the Revolutionary Socialists in collecting nomination petitions both in Egypt and outside.

It is almost certain that even if the regime allowed Tantawi to collect 25,000 signatures, Sisi would never allow a fair election. There is no democratic election under the military dictatorship. What Sisi and those in power fear most is that Tantawis campaign will turn into a large-scale movement. The ruling class fears nothing more than that the Egyptian people will rise up again, as they did in 2011, and demand bread, freedom and social justice.

On October 3, people in the city of Marsa Matrouh spontaneously took to the streets after Sisi officially announced his candidacy, tearing down his election posters and chanting that the people want to overthrow the regime. Afterwards there were multiple arrests.

It is scenes like these that indicate the possibilities of the spontaneity of the working class to rise up. Tantawi’s campaign offers the possibility of forming a movement that rebels against the military regime. It is now time for the working class to organize. The enemy is very well organized, and we should be too.