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Late Entry: Anti-Corruption Crusader Leaps Into Egypt’s Presidential Race

The youngest in a crowded field of presidential contenders, labor activist Khaled Ali is also the last to announce his candidacy. Not that it was his fault. Until turning 40 this past Sunday, he wasn’t technically old enough to run for the country

Mr. Ali (center-left) is ready to be a contender (Gigi Ibrahim)
Mr. Ali (center-left) is ready to be a contender (Gigi Ibrahim)

CAIRO -- Legally too young to run until this past Sunday – his 40th birthday – lawyer and labor activist Khaled Ali has just thrown this hat into the ring for Egypt's first post-revolution presidential race. He faces a crowded field that includes Amr Moussa, the ex-secretary general of the Arab League, and Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, an ultra-conservative television host.

"My entire platform is built on the basis of social justice," Ali said Monday in front of a crowded audience at the Journalists Syndicate. "I am the simple folk's candidate."

With the election set to take place this coming June, Ali's announcement comes a bit "late," admit some supporters. "Not many are familiar with labor movements, so we will have to work extra hard to spread the word and make his work known," said Magdy Saleh, a member of the Pharmaceutical Workers Syndicate.

Ali is not, however, an unknown in Egypt, where as the founder and director of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, and a legal activist for much of the last two decades, he made a name for himself as a staunch advocate for social justice, especially in the public sector.

He also led the case against government corruption during the Hosni Mubarak years, taking government officials to court for illegally selling public land and public sector factories. Most notably, Ali was able to get verdicts on cases that returned some large companies to the public. He was also a driving force behind a 2001 ruling to grant professionals' and workers' syndicates more freedoms, as well as a 2010 decision to increase the national minimum wage.

Drawing a crowd

Running as an independent, Ali believes he is strengthened by his history as an activist, crusader for the poor and a force for change. The main points of his platform include making Egypt a regional hub for economic cooperation, protecting natural resources and mineral wealth, reversing corrupt government deals from the past, rehabilitating farmland, and solving unemployment while ensuring workers' rights.

Many representatives of workers' and farmers' unions traveled a long way to attend Ali's announcement and endorse his candidacy in appreciation of the work he has done with them in the past. "He repeatedly stood with workers from our areas and fought to get their rights. That is why I made the four-hour trip over to stand with him. He is the right man, and will always fight for the right causes," said Samir Naguib, who heads the Quarry Workers Syndicate in Minya Governorate.

Before handing in his official candidacy papers, Ali must gather at least 30,000 endorsements from at least 15 governorates, or from 30 members of Parliament, to be able to officially run. Coming from a simple rural family in the Daqahlia Governorate and working in a legal NGO with modest funding, Ali and his campaigners acknowledge they will be running at a financial disadvantage.

Assuming he does meet the requirements, Ali's likely opponents – besides Amr Moussa and Hazem Salah Abu Ismail – will include Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former member of the guidance bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood; Mohammad Salim Al-Awa, an Islamic scholar; Bothaina Kamel, a leading political activist in last year's revolution; and Ahmed Shafik, an Air Marshal and the last prime minster under Mubarak.

Read the full story by Mohamed Elmeshad

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

Photo - Gigi Ibrahim

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

After Abbas: Here Are The Three Frontrunners To Be The Next Palestinian Leader

Israel and the West have often asked: Where is the Palestinian Mandela? The divided regimes between Gaza and the West Bank continues to make it difficult to imagine the future Palestinian leader. Still, these three names are worth considering.

Photo of Mahmoud Abbas speaking into microphone

Abbas is 88, and has been the leading Palestinian political figure since 2005

Thaer Ganaim/APA Images via ZUMA
Elias Kassem

Updated Dec. 5, 2023 at 12:05 a.m.

Israel has set two goals for its Gaza war: destroying Hamas and releasing hostages.

But it has no answer to, nor is even asking the question: What comes next?

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the return of the current Palestinian Authority to govern post-war Gaza. That stance seems opposed to the U.S. Administration’s call to revitalize the Palestinian Authority (PA) to assume power in the coastal enclave.

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But neither Israel nor the U.S. put a detailed plan for a governing body in post-war Gaza, let alone offering a vision for a bonafide Palestinian state that would also encompass the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority, which administers much of the occupied West Bank, was created in1994 as part of the Oslo Accords peace agreement. It’s now led by President Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded Yasser Arafat in 2005. Over the past few years, the question of who would succeed Abbas, now 88 years old, has largely dominated internal Palestinian politics.

But that question has gained new urgency — and was fundamentally altered — with the war in Gaza.

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