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Egypt’s elections: the meaning of Sabahi’s entry and Abul-Fotouh’s exit

Egypt’s presidential politics just got more interesting as Hamdeen Sabahi, the head of the Popular Current, announced his candidacy.
Leftist leader Hamdeen Sabahi speaks during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, April 29, 2013. Egypt should refuse a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund rather than submit to terms that would further impoverish the poor and could spark a revolution of the hungry, Sabahi said on Monday. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS) - RTXZ42R

In a somewhat surprising turn of events in Cairo, Hamdeen Sabahi, head of the Popular Current (PC), announced on Feb. 9 his bid to run for the presidency. At a press conference that was visibly on the more spontaneous side in terms of organization and appearance, the former presidential candidate's announcement seemed to surprise even many of his enthusiastic supporters in the crowd, who cheered loudly. Sabahi’s choice of words, in which he stated that this was his "personal decision" as a "citizen, and that he wasn’t trying to bypass his 'partners in the decision'" (likely a reference to other PC leadership), appeared to reaffirm reports of a split inside the PC over whether or not the former third-place winner in the previous elections should run this time against Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The army chief’s candidacy may not have been officially announced yet but remains pretty much a foregone conclusion. The PC has still to issue a formal statement on the matter, but an informed source told Al-Monitor that the PC is likely to now just fall in line. 

In an ensuing and interesting turn of events, a visibly acrimonious split has begun to take shape within the Tamarod movement. Mahmoud Badr, one of the main three frontmen and founders of the movement, recently stated that Tamarod had officially convened and decided to fully support Sisi, whereas Hassan Shahine and Mohammed Abdel-Aziz have their own bloc that immediately endorsed Sabahi following his announcement. A war of words involving the factions as well as the PC ensued, coupled with a split between the movement's website and Facebook pages, in addition to further internal frictions and splits and a decision to freeze the memberships of Shahine and Abdel-Aziz, are all forcing a general assembly of the movement to convene on Feb. 10 to finalize the endorsement decision. 

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