Former Military Chief of Staff Will Run for Egypt’s Upcoming Presidential Elections

Former military chief of staff General Sami Anan will run in Egypt’s upcoming presidential election, the party he leads said on Thursday, days after the most serious potential challenger to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pulled out, reported Reuters.

Secretary General of the Egypt Arab Party, Samy Balah, reported that the party had officially announced the presidential candidacy of the former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Sami Anan, for the election scheduled in March.

He also emphasized that it was Anan’s decision to run for president.

In an exclusive statement reported by Egypt Independent (online newspaper)on Friday afternoon, Balah revealed that Anan will officially announce his candidacy at a press conference, after he met the requirements making him eligible for a presidential candidacy, in accordance with the Constitution and the rules set out by the High Election Committee (HEC).

“The people will have to choose through ballot boxes, which will ultimately decide the next president of Egypt,”Balah said.

He also questioned the “fuss” regarding Anan running as a candidate.

“What’s all the fuss about [Anan’s] candidacy?” he asked. “[Anan] is a citizen like any citizen in Egypt who is running elections against his competitors in accordance to the law,” Balah said.

Balah affirmed that Anan expressed his desire to run for president as a national duty and willingness to serve this country. He also expressed respect to all potential candidates running in the presidential race.

Moreover, Balah said party members and officials across the country had been contacted about collecting the required votes of nomination, starting from Saturday.

Sami Anan, 69, who was chief of staff of the armed forces until 2012, will formally register his candidacy this weekend and begin collecting the 25,000 signatures he requires to stand.

Election regulations stipulate that would-be candidates must obtain the backing of at least 20 members of parliament for their candidacy or be supported by at least 25,000 eligible voters in at least 15 governorates.

The party will hold a news conference in the next few days for Anan to officially announce his candidacy, said Ragab Helal, a leading member in the party and member of parliament.

Anan’s candidacy news came days after former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik, and Sisi’s most serious competition, said he was no longer considering running for president in this year’s elections.

The ex-air force commander and former aviation minister blamed his living abroad for his initial decision to run.

However,leaked tapes were revealed last week strongly suggest that Ahmed Shafik abandoned his Egyptian presidential bid after being told that he would be smeared with allegations of sexual misconduct and corruption, sources close to the former prime minister have told Middle East Eye.

MEE’s sources did not divulge the identity of the messenger but said that they had claimed to have video tapes of alleged sexual misconduct and threatened to make Shafik the focus of a corruption investigation.

One of Shafiq’s two daughters would also face corruption charges, the messenger is alleged to have said.

Sources in the Shafik camp told MEE that the threats were made to force him to abandon his bid for the presidency.

In the same context, a leaked conversation revealed that an Egyptian secret service agent ordered a prominent TV host to prepare a show reel of footage to discredit former presidential hopeful Ahmed Shafik as a Muslim Brotherhood sympathize.

Audio of conversations between the agent Captain Ashraf al-Kholi and the host Azmi Megahed, broadcast by the Turkish-based Arabic television channel Mekameleen on Monday evening, reveals a plan to “crack” Shafik’s head and smear him if he steps out of line.

The Kholi-Megahed conversations appear to have taken place before Sunday. In a transcript seen by Middle East Eye, Kholi tells Megahed of bargaining behind the scenes with Shafik, and the need for a smear campaign if things go wrong.

“I want you to prepare Shafik’s videos when he was talking to the Brotherhood, because now there is bargaining and we want to see where we get with him. If he persists we shall dig out the old stuff,” Kholi tells the TV host.

Megahed, a former army brigadier now working for al-Aseema channel, replies, “I am ready, sir.”

The conversations span two days, where Kholi and Megahed discuss Shafik’s return to Egypt and the state’s plans on dealing with him.

“Let me tell you. With regard to Shafik… we shall not do him harm,”says Kholi.

“I shall not touch him at all. I said a few words yesterday. Now, only when things are clear we’ll do [proceed],” replies Megahed.

“You know that if he is willing to go along with us as we wish, he will be treated as one of the former leaders of the armed forces. He will have all respect and appreciation,” says Kholi.

“But if he is… with the Brotherhood?”

“We shall crack his father’s head,” replies Kholi – an Egyptian colloquialism meaning they will go after Shafik and his family.

The secret agent tells Megahed that there were members of the intelligence services who were supportive of Shafik.

“You know there are a few whores in the general intelligence who have taken Shafik’s side. Wherever a stench is smelled, eyes will be set.”

In the later conversation, Megahed tells Kholi he acted as ordered on air.

“I said, ‘Folks! Shafik’s issue has proven that Egypt has in it a respectable presidency and a respectable leadership,” Megahed tells Kholi.

“He was neither imprisoned nor humiliated and nothing happened to him,”replies the agent.

“We have a respectable leadership that fears God. It fears God in dealing with the people and in dealing with the country,” says Megahed

“It would never humiliate the leaders of the army,”Kholi adds in agreement.

Regarding other candidates, earlier on Thursday, prominent human rights lawyer Khaled Ali said  in a news conference he will not pull out of the race despite “unfair competition conditions”. Ali also ran for president in the 2012 election and came in seventh.

“We will not turn our back on this battle at a time like this,”Ali told a news conference on Thursday, calling on the youths who revolted in 2011 to support his campaign.

The 45-year-old lawyer was sentenced in September to three months in jail for public indecency over an allegedly rude hand gesture. If found guilty, Ali, whose next hearing is on March 7, will be disqualified from the race.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to seek a second term, but has yet to announce his candidacy. Over three-quarters of parliamentarians expressed support for Sisi the day after the election date was announced.

Sisi’s critics say his popularity has been dimmed by austerity reforms, security problems and a crackdown on dissidents.

The former general won a landslide victory in an election in 2014, a year after he led, as a military commander, the military coup that overthrew Egypt’s first democratically elected President Morsi.