Egypt presidential hopeful says bureaucrats blocking his bid
Egypt presidential hopeful says bureaucrats blocking his bid
The complaints, aired at a news conference held at Khaled Ali’s campaign headquarters in downtown Cairo, suggested that he was struggling to secure the 25,000 signatures, or “recommendations,” necessary to challenge President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who is widely expected to run for and win a second four-year term.
Alternatively, a presidential hopeful could secure the formal backing of 20 elected lawmakers. But the overwhelming majority of the chamber’s 596 members already have pledged their support to el-Sisi, who has yet to formally announce his candidacy.
“The battle for the recommendations is the real battle in this election. Either we win together or I fail alone.” Ali told reporters.
Ali has until Jan. 29 to submit the certified signatures. He said he wanted to submit them on Jan. 25, the seventh anniversary of the popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. El-Sisi’s supporters portray the uprising as a foreign conspiracy aimed at destabilizing the country.
Malek Adly, a rights lawyer and another January “revolutionary” from Ali’s campaign, told the news conference that supporters were “taking a risk” by visiting government offices to certify their signatures. He also criticized the personal attacks waged against Ali by pro-government talk show hosts.
“The legal team will start legal proceedings against every one of them,” he pledged. He said the campaign also complained about the thousands of street billboards in support of el-Sisi, saying they violate the timeline laid out by the election commission. Campaigning is supposed to begin Feb. 24 and last for under four weeks.
The vote will be held March 27-28 with runoffs, if needed, the following month.
Ali said government workers dragged their feet when his supporters asked for their signatures to be certified.
“We are fully aware of the difficulties and dangers involved in the battle to defend politics and win back public space,” he said. “This is the battle to regain our self-confidence and our ability to work together.”
Several campaign officials who spoke to The Associated Press said Ali supporters were intimidated and threatened by undercover policemen and el-Sisi supporters crowding the government offices. They expressed fears that the process of gathering and certifying signatures would allow authorities to target supporters after the vote.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss confidential deliberations.
Since el-Sisi led the military overthrow of an elected Islamist president in 2013, authorities have arrested thousands of people, mainly Islamists but also several prominent secular activists, including many who were behind the 2011 uprising. Street protests have been effectively banned, human rights groups placed under severe restrictions and many critics in the media have been silenced.
El-Sisi has said such measures are necessary to restore stability and rebuild the economy after years of unrest, and to combat a Daesh-led insurgency.
Ali shot to national fame when he won a court case that annulled Egypt’s transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. The government went ahead anyway with the transfer after the agreement was hurriedly ratified by parliament.
He was convicted and sentenced to three months in prison in September for allegedly making an obscene gesture while celebrating the court’s ruling in January 2016. He is appealing the verdict, but if his conviction is upheld he would not be eligible to run.
Another hopeful, former Egyptian lawmaker Mohammed Anwar Sadat, said this week he won’t run, arguing that the political “climate” was not conducive to campaigning. The nephew of Egypt’s late leader Anwar Sadat told reporters Monday that his decision was partially taken to protect his campaign workers from intimidation or arrest.
Last week, former prime minister and air force general Ahmed Shafiq also pulled out of the race, saying he was not the “ideal” person to lead the country at this stage. His decision followed a flood of harsh criticism, some personal, by the pro-government media. Shafiq, who finished second in the 2012 elections, could have potentially lit up the race.
The withdrawals have led many to wonder whether el-Sisi would end up as the only name on the ballot. For decades, Egypt’s presidents were elected in rigged, one-name referendums.
El-Sisi has urged Egyptians to come out and vote, suggesting he is looking for a high turnout that would lend credibility and legitimacy to his widely expected win. That the vote is staggered over three days appears designed to serve that objective.
One year after Daesh defeat, Syria’s Raqqa still in fear
- While the nightmare of militant rule may be gone, most of the city still lies in ruins
- ‘The war has worn us out. Us and our children. It has destroyed our future’
RAQQA, Syria: A year after a US-backed alliance of Syrian fighters drove the Daesh group from the northern city of Raqqa, traumatized civilians still live in fear of near-daily bombings.
“Every day we wake up to the sound of an explosion,” said resident Khaled Al-Darwish.
“We’re scared to send our children to school ... there’s no security,” he added.
The militants’ brutal rule in Raqqa was brought to an end in October 2017 after a months-long ground offensive by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces supported by air strikes from a US-led coalition.
But despite manning roadblocks at every street corner, the SDF and the city’s newly created Internal Security Forces are struggling to stem infiltration by Daesh sleeper cells.
At Raqqa’s entrance, soldiers verify drivers’ identity papers and carefully sift through lorry cargoes.
Inside the city, there are regular foot patrols and armored vehicles sit at strategic points.
Women wearing the niqab are asked to show their faces to female security members before entering public buildings.
“If there wasn’t fear about a return of Daesh, there wouldn’t be this increased military presence,” said Darwish, a father of two, speaking near the infamous Paradise Square.
It was here that Daesh carried out decapitations and other brutal punishments, earning the intersection a new name — “the roundabout of hell.”
While the nightmare of militant rule may be gone, most of the city still lies in ruins and there are near daily attacks on checkpoints and military vehicles, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Although a series of stinging defeats have cut Daesh’s so-called caliphate down to desert hideouts, the militants still manage to hit beyond the patches of ground they overtly control.
Some Raqqa residents say the city’s new security forces lack the expertise to cope.
“We are exhausted. Every day we don’t know if we will die in a bomb explosion or if we will go home safe and sound,” said Abu Younes, sitting in his supermarket near a roundabout not far from Paradise Square.
“There is no security — (the new security forces) on the roadblocks are not qualified and there is a lot of negligence,” he complained.
“There are faults that enable Daesh to infiltrate the city easily and carry out attacks.”
But despite the continued attacks, a semblance of normal life has returned to the city.
Shops have reopened and traffic has returned to major roads — albeit choked by the impromptu checkpoints.
In a public garden, children climb up a multi-colored slide and onto dilapidated swings as their mothers sit on nearby benches carefully keeping watch.
They are set amidst an apocalyptic backdrop of twisted metal and splayed balconies — the remnants of buildings torn apart by US-led coalition air raids.
Nearby, Ahmed Al-Mohammed pauses as he listens to music on his phone. Like others, he does not hide his disquiet.
“We’re scared because of the presence of Daesh members in the city,” the 28-year-old said.
“The security forces need to tighten their grip.”
Ahmed Khalaf, who commands Raqqa’s Internal Security Forces, defended the work of his men and claimed successes against the militants.
He said patrols are highly organized and that a “joint operation cell” had recently been established with coalition forces to monitor the city’s security.
“Recently we arrested four (militants) — it was a cell that took part in attacks that terrorized the city,” said Khalaf, sporting plain green fatigues.
“We are continuing our investigation to uncover the other cells,” he added.
“Daesh’s goal is to destroy the country and to not let anyone live in safety,” he said.
Security and stability are what Najla Al-Ahmed wants most for her children.
“The nightmare of Daesh follows us everywhere — whenever we try to rest, explosions start up again,” said the 36-year-old, as she shopped with her young ones.
“The war has worn us out. Us and our children. It has destroyed our future,” she said.