Egypt electoral upset leaves Shafiq campaigners out in the cold
Following the defeat of last Mubarak-era PM Ahmed Shafiq to the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi in Egypt's first free presidential poll, the former's supporters have confirmed that the ex-PM now plans to establish a new political party.
"Shafiq intends to form a party representing the liberal/conservative people who voted for him to ensure their continued political engagement," said Amr Hussein, social media manager for Shafiq’s presidential campaign.
"The party may be called the 'Egypt for All' party, but this has yet to be confirmed," Hussein added.
Although he initially denied the claims, Shafiq recently confirmed his intention to found a new party during his current visit to the Gulf. The 70-year-old travelled to the UAE on Tuesday, from where he subsequently flew to Saudi Arabia to perform the Islamic umra pilgrimage.
His departure came amid speculation that he could soon face graft charges. Nevertheless, he is scheduled to return this week to Egypt, where millions of supporters are expected to celebrate his return.
The establishment of a new political party would undoubtedly provide fresh inspiration for many Shafiq campaign officials, whose lives have been largely turned upside down since his stunning electoral defeat.
"No one will hire me now. Everyone associates me with the Shafiq campaign," complained a leading Shafiq campaigner. "I would proudly take a position in his new party."
Hard-line Shafiq campaigners have been forced to re-evaluate their futures given the grave challenges they now face. Many had expected to secure high government posts under a Shafiq presidency; now, however, many face uncertain futures and job prospects.
A number of Shafiq campaigners, who now feel alienated from Egypt's new Islamist-led political scene, expressed a desire to emigrate. "I want to leave the country," said one such dejected former campaigner.
Campaign insiders are quick to stress the relative diversity of the Shafiq campaign. "The core team is comprised of individuals from all segments of society and religious affiliations, including Copts, secularists, liberals and devout Muslims," said one campaign source. "Women also played a fundamental role in the campaign."
"The Shafiq campaign team is reflective of Egyptian society," said Hussein. "We're all from different walks of life."
Hussein was raised in Cairo's urban Omraneya district, went to public school, and graduated with an engineering degree from Helwan University. On 25 January of last year, he was arrested for participating in the anti-regime protests.
He joined the Shafiq campaign last December and now plans to join Shafiq’s new party.
"Shafiq is an honourable man who has the experience and credentials to lead Egypt," said Hussein. "The reforms he carried out when he served as civil aviation minister – construction of the new airport and the transformation of the EgyptAir fleet – testifies to his potential."
Ahmed Sarhan, Shafiq's chief campaign spokesman, comes from a similar background to that of Hussein. Sarhan was raised in Cairo's working-class Al-Zawya Al-Hamra district, where he attended public school. After graduating from Ain Shams University with a degree in telecommunications, he earned his MBA at the Arab Academy for Science and Technology.
Since Shafiq’s recent electoral loss, Sarhan has decided to quit politics and pursue a career as director of services for a Chinese multinational.
"I have quit politics. I'm no longer Shafiq’s spokesperson," Sarhan was reported to have said, amid rumours he was preparing to depart the country. Some young campaign members, meanwhile, appear to have followed in Sarhan's footsteps, choosing to opt out of politics.
"We tried our best and failed, so I'm resigning from politics," said one young female Shafiq campaigner.
Former campaign officials are now waiting-and-seeing what Shafiq’s next political steps will be. But with uncertainty surrounding the vanquished presidential candidate – especially given recent reports of possible graft allegations – it is difficult to predict his political fate.
Nonetheless, Shafiq's core supporters appear eager for the 70-year-old politico to speedily return to Egypt's unpredictable post-Mubarak political scene.
"Shafiq is Egypt's only hope," said Hussein. "I look forward to assuming a post in his new party."
Undoubtedly, Shafiq campaigners will have to work twice as hard this time around to attain the support of Egypt's revolutionary forces, which emphatically refuse to see a Mubarak loyalist sitting in the presidential palace.
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