Residents of the Sinai region, all of whose tribes are Muslim, were surprised that a Christian man would run for the People's Assembly. The astonishing thing is that he is running for the individual-worker seat and has not resorted to any political party – not even the Free Egyptians Party. The General Secretary for the Free Egyptians Party in North Sinai, Hatem Abdel Hady, told me in a prior interview that many Christians in al-Arish were involved in negotiations for this candidate to back out of the race so he does not split the vote with the party list. Fityan, however, denied the claim which he said had no basis in truth.
The candidate is an agricultural engineer by the name of Fahmy Metry Fityan, and his family has resided in Sinai since 1939. His father gave his life for the country in Garada (currently El Kharouba) in 1956. Born in Garada, Fahmy and has lived his whole life in Sinai. Before he retired, he worked as director of the agricultural administration, and now heads the Agricultural Society in al-Arish. In this last post, he succeeded former chairman – his late schoolmate and political mentor – Al-Kashef Mohamed al-Kashef, a famous politician and People's Assembly representative for al-Arish for several terms. EgyptVotes met Fityan at his workplace at the Agricultural Society in al-Arish.
Most people we spoke to were surprised that you are running for elections in a society which pushes people to vote for someone from their tribe or family. Is this merely a political battle?
On the contrary, I decided to run in order to really compete, not just for a political battle. I'm well-liked and my fellowship with people is what spurred me to do it.
You talk about your fellowship with people – how long have you lived in Sinai?
I was born here in Garada, and my family has lived in Sinai since 1939. My father died for the country in 1956, and one of the main reasons I decided to run was to honour my father, who was martyred in my birthplace of Garada.
With all due respect to this fact, don't you also think that the game of politics is not ruled by emotions, but by other considerations, including for example the fact that Christians in Sinai are really few in number and their power to sway elections is weak?
Christians in North Sinai account for 2,000 voters according to national ID statistics, while residents originally from other governorates account for another 25,000 voters. So if you figure that the total number of those who have the right to vote in al-Arish is 40,000 voters, that's not a small chance. I'm counting on this and on my good personal relationship with many Sinai residents.
These numbers are really significant. Are they documented or are they just estimates?
No, of course they're documented.
But 2,000 votes do not guarantee strong competition for you, especially if we take into account Sheikh Zuwaid, Rafah and Bir al-Abd.
For this reason, I've been coordinating with one of the candidates not originally from the governorate, Adel al-Zanati, who hails from Upper Egypt. I've also lived for some time in Upper Egypt, in Menya in the village of Samalout, where I spent time away before I came back here.
This is not your first time to run in elections – is that correct?
Yes, I filed to run in the previous round of elections, but I withdrew and didn't go all the way because of family circumstances – that is, the death of my brother.
Speaking of withdrawing from the race, there have been reports that Christians affiliated with the Free Egyptians Party have tried to convince you to back out?
This information is not true at all. No one has contacted me, and I have not thought about backing out.
Aside from backing out, why haven't you thought about the Free Egyptians Party? Do they not offer suitable political cover?
I have no relationship with any parties and running as an independent is what suits my personal make-up.
None of them have contacted you?
Right now you hold the seat once occupied by the late Al-Kashef Mohamed al-Kashef in the Agricultural Society. What was the extent of your relationship with him?
Eng. al-Kashef, may God rest his soul, was my schoolmate and I had a lifelong relationship with him. He was my first mentor in politics and he's the one who encouraged me to run in the last election.
Have you held any election seminars or conferences?
Yes, I held a conference with my colleague in the Agricultural Union, and we will hold a conference in Bir al-Abd and another in al-Arish next to al-Rifai Mosque.
I wish you success.
*Uncredited pictures provided by journalist.