Egypt Presidential Elections Will Be”Neither Free nor Fair”: Rights Group

Egyptian presidential elections expected to be dominated by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi next month will be “neither free nor fair”, more than a dozen human rights groups said Tuesday.

“The Egyptian government has trampled over even the minimum requirements for free and fair elections,” the 14 international and Egyptian organisations said in a joint statement released by Human Rights Watch.

According to the groups, which also include the World Organisation Against Torture and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies,”The government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has relentlessly stifled basic freedoms and arrested potential candidates and rounded up their supporters.”

All serious potential presidential contenders for the March 26-28 vote have either been jailed or have withdrawn from the presidential race, with some claiming the entire process was not conducive to free elections.

A coalition of eight parties and 150 public figures called on Egyptians last month to boycott the poll, calling it a “charade”.

Former army chief Sisi, who was elected in 2014 after leading the military ouster of Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi, will face a single opponent: Mousa Mostafa Mousa, a Sisi supporter.

The rights groups said,”Egypt’s allies should speak out publicly now to denounce these farcical elections, rather than continue with largely unquestioning support for a government presiding over the country’s worst human rights crisis in decades.”

The United States as well as the European Union and individual European countries “should halt all security assistance that could be used in internal repression and focus aid on ensuring concrete improvements to protect basic rights,” they said.

“Seven years after Egypt’s 2011 uprising, the government has made a mockery of the basic rights for which protesters fought,” the groups added, referring to the protests that toppled Egypt’s autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak.

One former potential candidate in the election, ex-army chief of staff General Sami Anan, was accused of illegally announcing his intention to run for president before getting the military’s approval.

Now General Sami Anan is being held at a military prison in Cairo, according to his lawyer.

Another, leftist human rights lawyer Khaled Ali, dropped out last month, citing harassment of his supporters and concerns over the safety of his volunteers.

In December, a military court sentenced a colonel, Ahmed Konsowa, to six years in jail after he announced his intention to stand.

Moreover, Ahmed Shafik, former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, abruptly announced his withdrawal from the race his saying  he was “not the best choice for managing the state’s affairs in the upcoming period.”

Shafik, who has lived in exile with the support of the Emirates since he lost the 2012 Egyptian presidential election, had faced many challenges before he surrendered to compete al-Sisi in the elections.

First, Shafik appeared on Al Jazeera television to say he was being barred from leaving UAE. He said that the leaders of the United Arab Emirates were preventing him from leaving their country, seeking to block him from running again against Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

“I was surprised to find myself prevented from leaving our sister country,”the former general, Ahmed Shafik, said in a videotaped statement from Dubai.

He added,”I reject interventions into the affairs of my country by preventing me from participating in a constitutional process and a sacred national mission.”

Shafik’s daughter said that her father had been prevented from leaving the UAE in previous days but had then received assurances that he could travel freely. She did not specify who gave the assurances.

Later, in a surprise move, Ahmed Shafik was deported from the United Arab Emirates and arrived in Cairo.

His family said earlier they feared he had been “kidnapped”. Sources said he had been picked up by Egyptian authorities at Cairo airport.

Earlier after being deported to Cairo, Shafik’s family said that he had been taken from their home by UAE authorities and flown by private plane back to Cairo.

Days later after being met by Egyptian security services upon arriving in Cairo and promptly disappeared from public view, he re-emerged to say he was no longer running for the elections!

Leaked tapes, which was 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 videotapes of alleged sexual misconduct and threatened to make Shafik the focus of a corruption investigation.

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

Also, 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 sympathizer.