Egyptian presidential candidates had started their campaigns a long time before their eligibility to run was confirmed and spent a lot of money in acquainting voters with their platforms. This, experts argued, is expected to raise the cost of presidential elections to around 1.5 billion Egyptian pounds (LE) which is about $165 million.
“All those who thought of running for the presidency started their campaigns very early even though it was against the law,” said Farag Abdel Fattah, professor of economics at Cairo University and expert at the African Studies Institute.
Fattah added that parliamentary elections costs were indicative of the amounts of money to be spent on these elections.
“The Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Salafi al-Nour Party spent a lot of money on their candidates in parliamentary elections. Al-Nour spent more, but the Freedom and Justice Party were more organized.”
As for presidential elections, former Salafi candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who was excluded because of his mother’s nationality, ranked first as far as campaign costs are concerned, said Fattah.
“The money Abu Ismail spent on his campaign is estimated at 300 million Egyptian pounds, which is more than the total spent by the rest of the candidates.”
Egyptian law, Abdel Fattah noted, obliges candidates to submit a report of their campaign expenses and the source from which they get funding, but none of them has so far done this.
“Some candidates did not leave one remote village without placing their posters and distributing their flyers there.”
According to advertising agencies, those campaigns cost billions of pounds since that average cost of each campaign is LE 120-150 million. This means that the 13 official presidential candidates will pay a total of more than 1.56 billion pounds.
Each candidate, they explain, has therefore exceeded the 10 million pound limit stipulated by the elections law in the first round and five million in the second.
It is also hard for the government to trace the sources of funding since there are several ways of going around the law especially that they have already started a long time before they should have. According to the law, campaigns should start after the official list of candidates is made public.
According to a report about presidential candidates issued by the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies, former Salafi candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail printed 10 million posters, each costing four Egyptian pounds. This means that the cost of posters only is 40 million pounds.
Hamdi Abdel Gaber, member of the Salafi al-Nour Party, said figures of Abu Ismail’s campaign costs are exaggerated.
“It is impossible to determine the exact cost because not all of it was paid by Abu Ismail himself. Many of his supporters donated to the campaign or printed posters at their own expense.”
Abdel Gaber denied allegations about Abu Ismail receiving foreign funding and challenged anyone to present documents to prove these allegations.
There has so far been no official statement about foreign funding of presidential candidates and the issue remains in the realm of speculations and media reports.
Economic experts argued that bribery still constitutes a sizable portion of campaign costs with people given money or food to be lured into voting for a specific candidate.
Presidential campaigns, they added, gave a boost to several businesses like advertising agencies, textile dealers, and transportation companies.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)