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.
UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians, Israel says ‘no’
- Israel rejects report saying the protection should be against Palestinian leaders
- The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary
UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday presented four options aimed at boosting the protection of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, from sending UN rights monitors and unarmed observers to deploying a military or police force under UN mandate.But the report has been rejected by the Israelis. Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon said in a statement late Friday that “the only protection the Palestinian people need is from their own leadership.”
“Instead of suggesting ways to protect the Palestinian people from Israel, the UN should instead hold the Palestinian leadership accountable for continually endangering its own people,” Danon said.
“The report’s suggestions will only enable the Palestinians’ continued rejectionism.”
The proposals were contained in a report requested by the General Assembly in response to a surge of violence in Gaza, where 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since late March.
The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary. It remained unlikely however that Israel would agree to the proposals.
In the 14-page report, Guterres proposed:
• Providing a “more robust UN presence on the ground” with rights monitors and political officers to report on the situation.
• Pouring in more UN humanitarian and development aid to “ensure the well-being of the population.”
• Creating a civilian observer mission that would be present in sensitive areas such as checkpoints and near Israeli settlements, with a mandate to report on protection issues.
• Deploying an armed military or police force, under a UN mandate, to provide physical protection to Palestinian civilians.
A UN mandate for a protection force would require a decision from the Security Council, where the United States could use its veto power to block a measure opposed by Israel.
A small European-staffed observer mission was deployed in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994, but Israel has since rejected calls for an international presence in flashpoint areas.
In the report, Guterres said the United Nations was already undertaking many protection initiatives but that “these measures fall short” of the concerns raised in a General Assembly resolution adopted in June.
In that measure, the 193-nation assembly condemned Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and tasked Guterres with the drafting of proposals for “an international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians.
Guterres argued that a political solution to the conflict was needed to address the safety of Palestinians but that “until such a solution is achieved, member-states may further explore all practical and feasible measures that will significantly improve the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.”
“Such measures would also improve the security of Israeli civilians.”
On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border and 270 other Palestinians were wounded.
Israel has defended its use of live ammunition in Gaza by invoking its right to self-defense. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.
“The targeting of civilians, particularly children, is unacceptable,” Guterres said in the report, adding that “those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.”
UN efforts to ensure the well-being of Palestinians must strengthened, he added, singling out the funding crisis at the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA as being “of particular concern.”
UNRWA is facing a major budget shortfall after President Donald Trump’s administration decided to withhold its contribution to the agency.
The report released to all UN member-states comes amid a vacuum in Middle East peace efforts as European and other big powers await a peace plan from the Trump administration that has been under discussion for months.
UN diplomats have recently begun questioning whether the US peace plan will ever materialize.
The United Nations has warned that a new war could explode in Gaza.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008.