Last major challenger to Egypt’s Sisi calls off campaign after arrest

Egypt's former army chief of staff Sami Anan speaks during a news conference at his office in Cairo, March 13, 2014. (Reuters)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Last major challenger to Egypt’s Sisi calls off campaign after arrest

CAIRO: The last challenger seen as a potential threat to the re-election of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi abruptly ended his campaign on Tuesday after the army accused him of violating military law by running for office without permission.
A security source and members of the campaign staff of former military chief of staff Lieutenant General Sami Anan said he had been detained for questioning following the army's announcement rejecting his decision to run.
The army statement, which appeared in text on state TV and was read aloud by a spokesman, said Anan's presidential bid amounted to "blatant legal violations ... (and) a serious breach of the laws of military service".
He had announced his candidacy "without getting permission from the armed forces ... or taking the steps necessary to terminate his service".
Organisers of the campaign announced that he had called off his bid. They gave no details of his whereabouts following what they described as his detention. The military declined to comment on the report he had been detained. The interior ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.
A witness who knows Anan told Reuters the candidate was driving to his office when his car was stopped by what appeared to be armed military police on a main road in Cairo.
Anan was the final high profile challenger to Sisi left in the race after a number of others dropped out, some citing intimidation by the authorities.
Egypt's president's office and government press centre have not commented on the election race. The electoral commission has said it will ensure the vote is carried out fairly and transparently.
Sisi, a former military chief who led the overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 and was elected president the following year, announced last week he will seek a second term in the election set for late March.

Candidates withdraw

Ahmed Shafik, a former prime minister and air force chief, abandoned a bid this month, saying that after several years living abroad he was out of touch with Egyptian politics. The announcement came amid media criticism and speculation that he was being held by authorities in a Cairo hotel.
Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat, the nephew of assassinated President Anwar al-Sadat, said last week he would not run, citing an environment of fear surrounding the vote.
Rights lawyer Khaled Ali has said he will still run, but he might be disqualified over an ongoing legal case against him.
Anan announced his presidential bid in a video declaration posted on his official Facebook page last week, saying he was running to save Egypt from incorrect policies and calling on state institutions to maintain neutrality toward all candidates.
Egyptian law requires former army officials to end their service and receive permission from the military before they can run for political office. The army's statement said Anan had falsified documents that stated his military service had ended.
Sisi's critics say his popularity has eroded over tough economic reforms tied to a $12 billion International Monetary Fund loan, which have squeezed many Egyptians, and over a crackdown on dissidents.
His supporters say firm measures are necessary to bring security and stability to a country that has seen unrest since a 2011 uprising toppled long-serving autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt is fighting a stubborn Islamic State insurgency in its North Sinai region. Militants have expanded their attacks to target civilians, especially over the past year.


Erdogan picks ministers for Turkey parliamentary race to boost his AK Party’s chances

Updated 28 min 43 sec ago
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Erdogan picks ministers for Turkey parliamentary race to boost his AK Party’s chances

ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has picked prominent ministers to run for parliament next month, strengthening the ruling AK Party’s chances of winning a majority but putting their future role in government into question, party officials say.
Many cabinet members including the energy, defense, foreign and interior ministers were named this week by the party to run for parliament in the June 24 poll, where the Islamist-rooted AK Party faces a stiff challenge from an opposition alliance.
While boosting the list of candidates, the move could affect the shape of the future cabinet because lawmakers will not be able to hold ministerial posts under the new presidential system, unless they resign their seats.
The party, in power since 2002, remains Turkey’s most popular political force, but recent opinion polls have suggested it could struggle to win an absolute majority, even with the support of its nationalist MHP ally.
The latest fall in the lira, which has lost more than a fifth of its value against the dollar this year, could also work against Erdogan if voters fear the government is pushing prices and the cost of living higher.
Erdogan is still widely expected to win the presidential election to be held the same day. While the presidency will take on greater executive authority afterwards, an opposition-controlled parliament could vote down legislation.
“Erdogan wants to win a parliamentary majority in this critical election with a strong list,” said one AK Party member running for parliament.
A survey by MAK pollsters, viewed as sympathetic to the ruling party, showed on Wednesday that the parliamentary race is absolutely balanced, with the AK Party together with the MHP winning exactly 50.0 percent. In the presidential vote, it saw Erdogan winning 51.4 percent.

MINISTERIAL CHANGES
The move to throw high profile ministers into the parliamentary race could have a major impact on the composition of next cabinet.
“Under normal circumstances, those who are in the (parliamentary) list will not be appointed ministers,” a senior AK Party official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
Finance Minister Naci Agbal was not named as a parliamentary candidate, and three sources said he was expected to remain in the post-election cabinet.
However, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci is expected to leave the cabinet and run for a mayoral office, the sources said, while the future of Mehmet Simsek, deputy prime minister with responsibility for the economy, was undecided.
Investors have been watching closely for signals about Simsek’s role. As a former investment banker in New York and London, he is seen as one of the most investor-friendly members of a government at odds with economic orthodoxy.
The Turkish lira, already one of the weakest emerging market currencies this year, has lost another 13 percent against the dollar since Erdogan said in London last week that he planned to take greater control of the economy and that the central bank would not be able to ignore signals from the new executive presidency.
“Erdogan will make the last call on Simsek. Although Simsek’s policies are sometimes criticized, everyone knows that it’s hard to replace him,” an AK Party official said.
Simsek congratulated those on the party’s parliamentary list on Tuesday, adding in a tweet: “Onwards, no stopping.”
Officials say economic management is expected to be overseen by one of five vice presidents in a cabinet made up of 14 ministers — down from the current 21.
The changes have not yet been finalized, however, and may not be completed before the election, one of the AK Party officials said.