Egypt: Amid a new mock candidate, debate is heating up about presidential election

Egypt’s Wafd Party head Abdel Sanad Yamama has announced his intention to run for Egypt’s presidential election. However, he, meanwhile, he declared that “we are all with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi”!

A few days ago, Wafd Party head Abdel Sanad Yamama became the latest figure to toss his hat into the ring for Egypt’s presidential election even as he declared that “we are all with” President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Another likely candidate is former Karama (Dignity) Party head Ahmed Tantawi. Several of his supporters have been arrested since he announced his intention to run.

Tantawi met with the opposition Civil Democratic Movement (CDM) on April 10, but the Movement said afterward that it has not yet decided whether to participate in the election, let alone support a single candidate.

One of the CDM’s member parties, the Conservative Party, is now pushing for its president, Akmal Kortam, to stand in the election as well.

Diaa Rashwan, the coordinator of the ongoing national dialogue, said that according to the constitution, authorities must announce the election date and procedures and open the door for candidacies by December 3 of this year, 120 days before al-Sisi’s current term comes to an end on April 2, 2024.

According to Rashwan, the election results must be published at least 30 days before the end of al-Sisi’s term, meaning the election should take place in February at the latest. Al-Sisi has not yet announced whether he will run, although he pushed through constitutional changes in 2019 that would allow him to seek another term.

In another context, speaking of the dialogue, during a June 11 session on freedom of information and expression, new Journalists Syndicate head Khaled al-Balshy called for changes to laws on pretrial detention and the media that have been used to silence and jail journalists.

Al-Balshy also urged authorities to stop banning websites, a practice that is continuing even as the dialogue goes on.

One of the CDM’s representatives in the dialogue, Mona Abdel Radi of the Egyptian Democratic Party, recently announced that she would stop attending its sessions in protest at “authorities’ failure to implement promises to release prisoners and the continued restrictions on freedom of the press.”

The dialogue is taking place against a backdrop of continuing human rights violations, including prison abuses and widespread due process violations.

On June 9, the Committee for Justice (CFJ) condemned the continued solitary confinement of human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer.

He was assaulted and placed in solitary confinement two months earlier after coming to the defense of an elderly cellmate, and his wife was arrested and detained for 13 hours after writing about the abuse.

CFJ and other rights groups also wrote in support of prisoners at Abu Zaabal prison who are planning on holding a general strike over overcrowding and human rights abuses.

“The issue of detention centers, prisons, and the violations occurring within them in Egypt has become a ticking time bomb, not only for the Egyptian authorities but also for the international community that witnesses everything happening within these facilities while remaining silent and inactive towards the suffering victims,” they wrote.

Rights groups also condemned recent death sentences handed out in an unfair emergency court, legal violations against detained former student activist Moaz al-Sharqawy, and prison authorities’ assault on Ahmed Oraby, who has been detained since November 2022 for his Facebook posts during Egypt’s hosting of COP27.

Members of the German Bundestag’s Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid issued a statement today noting that, despite the Egyptian government’s promises in the run-up to COP27, “positive effects of strengthening human rights remained marginal and limited to purely symbolic acts.”

They added, “Egypt’s national human rights strategy must now be urgently followed by the steps announced therein. The tactical maneuvering with human rights reforms is unacceptable.”

In a rare piece of good news, human rights defender and former political prisoner Abdelrahman “Moka” Tarek arrived in Paris after he was arrested in Lebanon and threatened with deportation to Egypt last month.