Thursday 25 January 2018
CAIRO: Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi submitted his nomination documents on Wednesday, a day after a potentially serious challenger in the March vote was arrested by the military.
El-Sisi is virtually certain to win a second four-year term in the March 26-28 vote, as two would-be challengers have withdrawn from the race and another two have been arrested. But his supporters have been actively gathering signatures from voters in an attempt to show he has popular support.
Would-be candidates must secure 25,000 “recommendations” from voters or the support of 20 lawmakers to be eligible to run. El-Sisi already has the support of more than 500 of parliament’s 596 lawmakers. But on Wednesday his official Facebook page posted images of workers unloading boxes of recommendations from a van, each bearing the president’s image and the slogan “Long live Egypt!“
On Tuesday, the military arrested former chief of staff Sami Annan over a slate of serious allegations, all but ending his hopes of running in the election and ensuring that el-Sisi, a former general, will not face off against another member of the country’s powerful military establishment.
Amnesty International said the arrest of Annan amounted to an attack on rights to public participation and freedom of expression.
“It is clear that the Egyptian authorities are hell-bent on arresting and harassing anyone who stands against President el-Sisi,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty’s North Africa Campaigns Director. “This is consistent with the Egyptian government’s ongoing efforts to crush dissent and consolidate power by attacking civil society, activists and human rights defenders in the country.”
Annan’s arrest leaves prominent rights lawyer Khaled Ali as the only serious would-be candidate to challenge el-Sisi. But Ali’s candidacy is also at risk because he was convicted in September of making an obscene hand gesture in public. If that ruling is upheld on appeal, he will be ineligible. The next appeal hearing is scheduled for March 7, less than three weeks before the vote.
Two other presidential hopefuls have withdrawn.
Former prime minister and air force Gen. Ahmed Shafiq, who finished a close second in Egypt’s first free election in 2012, said he did not think he was the “ideal” man to lead the nation after days of harsh criticism by pro-el-Sisi media.
Another would-be candidate was former lawmaker Mohammed Anwar Sadat, the nephew of the Egyptian leader who was assassinated in 1981. He said the country’s political “climate” was not conducive to campaigning and because he feared for the safety of his supporters.
Another hopeful, Army Col. Ahmed Konsowa, was court martialed and sentenced to six years in prison for breaching military regulations prohibiting political activism.
In his first public comments since Annan’s arrest, el-Sisi on Wednesday reiterated vague warnings that Egypt is the target of a foreign conspiracy.
“The evil people are still trying to achieve their goal and all eyes are on Egypt, but no one will hurt Egypt,” he said at a ceremony marking Police Day.
“We are talking construction, building and development. We don’t want anyone to lead us astray with rhetoric that we don’t need,” he said, in what may have been a reference to Annan’s video message announcing he would run.
In the video, Annan spoke of deteriorating living standards and what he called the “erosion” of the state’s capabilities, which he blamed it on the military’s growing involvement in the economy and politics. “Wise” policies were needed to bring in the civilian sector, but that required respect for the constitution and guarantees of freedoms, added Annan.
He also took the unusual step of appealing to the military and state institutions to remain neutral in the election, saying they should not be biased in favor of el-Sisi.
El-Sisi led the 2013 military overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected president, Muhammad Mursi, whose year in power proved divisive. The government has since waged a wide-scale crackdown on dissent, silencing nearly all its critics.
Except for Mursi and interim president Adly Mansour, who succeeded him in 2013, all of Egypt’s presidents since the establishment of the republic in the early 1950s have come from the military, and the security apparatus is believed to wield great power behind the scenes.
Source: Arab News.