When former army chief Abdel Fattah al Sisi announced he was running for president he told Egyptians not to expect a “traditional” campaign – apparently that meant he wasn’t going to turn up to a single public rally (most likely for security reasons).
But that hasn’t stopped people from holding parties for him across the country.
In contrast, Hamdeen Sabbahy – MrSisi’s opponent – has been canvassing far and wide. He has fashioned himself as the revolutionary campaign, a man of the people.
Mr Sabbahy is not the only opposition MrSisi faces. We met up with 21-year-old Youssef Salheen in a park in central Cairo.
Youssef only meets in public places and is constantly looking over his shoulder. He’s the spokesman for a movement called Students Against The Coup which has held weekly rallies since former president Mohamed Morsi was deposed.
Lately the police have cracked down hard on these protests. Youssef is boycotting the vote on Monday because he says the environment they are being held is not democratic.
“There are more than 25,000 people in prisons for just expressing their opinions so do you want us to go and participate in elections and express our opinions? Of course not. They won’t accept this,” he tells us.
There are also other, secular youth groups planning to boycott.
We met up with a new group called “didak” (which translates as: “against you” in English) as they were staging a small protest on a bridge in Cairo.
They take down posters of MrSisiand hold up pictures of their friends who have been detained. But even they say there’s not much they can do because of the constant threat of arrest, and they will probably have to stop their activities altogether soon.
One group that was instrumental in the 2011 uprising is April 6. In a cafe in downtown Cairo we met the spokesperson for the political bureau of the movement,Mohamed Kamal.
He too says he is followed and harassed by the authorities on a regular basis because of his opposition to the military-backed government.
April 6 was recently banned and their leaders have been in prison for months. But Mohamed thinks it’s only a matter of time before people rise up against MrSisi.
“He is deceiving people, he is playing in the minds of people, so people when he fails to achieve their goals, they will revolt against him again and we are planning to this,” he says.
But Mohamed admitted there is no space for his group in the current political landscape and they have to change their tactics from protesting to more grass roots work to get their message across to the people.
Egypt’s economy is faltering, unemployment is at its highest rate in a decade and tourism, a main source of income for the state, has halved in recent years. Constant power cuts, because of the energy crisis, are crippling businesses.
Youssef thinks these obstacles will eventually bring MrSisi down because he has no solutions for them.
“What’s happening and what’s going to happen with the economy, the freedom of expression, freedom of action – it’s going to make people rebel again, and more people, even people who supported the coup and supported Sisi himself. I believe that is going to happen at some point,” he says.
Perhaps, but for now MrSisi enjoys overwhelming support across the country and more importantly he has the backing of the army, the most powerful institution in the country, and as long as he has that his political survival is guaranteed.
The winner of these elections may be clear, where the country is heading is not.
25 May 2014 | 7:11 am – Source: orange.co.uk