By Heba Hesham
CAIRO: Rights lawyer Khaled Aly announced Monday his plans to run for president on a platform of social justice, “as an independent young man who is sided with the poor against the military ruling.”
“I have no fear as long as I am backed by the poor and indigent who revolt for their freedom and dignity,” said the 41-year-old former head of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), who is the youngest presidential hopeful so far.
“I know that they will try to defame me, but even if they killed me or imprisoned me … you are the ones who will [continue] calling for your rights,” he said.
Known for filing and winning the court case that obliged the government to set a minimum wage compatible with today’s living costs, Aly is said to enjoy the support of the labor sector.
The hall at the Journalists’ Syndicate at which he made the announcement was filled with workers and farmers chanting repeatedly in his support and against military rule.
“A poor farmer who will become a president from Tahrir,” his supporters chanted, particularly when he stressed on social justice as the main feature of his electoral program.
Aly, a founding member of the Front for Defending Egypt’s Protesters that was established in 2008 and the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, stressed that he is not running for president on behalf of revolutionaries, saying no one has the right to monopolize speaking in the name of the revolution.
He urged his supporters who believe in his determination to achieve social justice to collect the 30,000 signatures from citizens of at least 15 governorates as required.
Laws stipulate that presidential hopefuls must collect the signatures of 30 parliamentarians or 30,000 citizens in order to be eligible as candidates.
Registration for candidacy is to open on March 10 and end on April 8, but the elections date is yet to be set.
Aly entered the race quite late. Whilst most potential candidates had announced their plans over the past year with repeated media appearances, talks about Aly’s candidacy made it to the news this month. Critics believe that he has little chance of winning and are worried that his campaign would either split the vote or the campaigning efforts in favor of candidates representing the regime ousted in the 2011 uprising.
“I will not run with a partisan support. If you want me to run, go to the streets, talk to people and get me the signatures, so I can run for presidency,” he said stressing that he will not make use of social justice in electoral speeches as others do, but he will infuse it in his plan to become a ruling policy.
Since his entrance into the race is quite recent, Aly’s electoral program is yet to be developed. He said it would be complete by the end of March, while outlining some of its main points.
On the economic level, he would focus on cooperation between Egypt, Iran and Turkey to strengthen the local economy away from American domination.
“They (former regime) normalized relations with Israel. But we will not lose Iran as an economic partner,” he said.
He added that he will return the public sector to its prior status when it used to have a social significance by providing affordable goods and proper employment policies.
“The worker will not have to visit his employer every day to kiss his hand to get his consent. Only law would regulate the relation between employees and their employers,” Aly added, stressing that he would not be against the private sector, but that it will be supported if it does not violate labor laws.
Aly had won court verdicts ordering the renationalization of previously privatized companies, whose deals “were marred by corruption,” according to a Facebook page set up to support his campaign.
On the political level, he said he was against the attempts of the ruling generals to politicize the police and the army forces.
Addressing the ruling military council, he said, “Stop the use of police and army in media and politics.”
Under the toppled regime, he continued, the media was moved by the ousted president and his wife, but now it is directed by the Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and Samy Anan, chief of staff of the armed forces.
Aly said that the army should hand over the economic institutions it owns to the public sector.
“These institutions distract the army from performing its mission by making conscripts work in the plants and projects with minimal wages. There is a large percentage of unemployment in the country that can be directed to work there instead of conscripts,” he said.