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

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.

Divided Arab economic summit: We must help suffering refugees

Updated 17 min 15 sec ago

Divided Arab economic summit: We must help suffering refugees

  • Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil called for 'effective solutions' for the return of Syrian refugees to their country
  • Summit also called for dialogue over growing tensions between Israel and Palestine

BEIRUT: The fourth Arab Economic and Social Development Summit was held in Beirut on Sunday, in an effort to, among other things, find ways to alleviate the suffering of refugees in the Middle East.

The summit, though attended by representatives from 20 Arab nations, was soured by the absence of most Arab heads of state, and was divided over several issues, including the absence of Syrian delegates, and a boycott by Libya.

The summit did, though, call for dialogue with the international community over growing tensions between Israel and Palestine.

Delegates expressed their support for the Palestinian people, and cited the “collective responsibility” of all parties towards maintaining the city of Jerusalem’s “Islamic and Christian identity.”

In a statement, the summit declared: “We reiterate Palestinian refugees’ rights of return and compensation, according to the UN General Assembly’s resolution 194 of 1948.”

Delegates also discussed at great length the need for international cooperation to support the growing digital economy across the region. They emphasized “the importance of building the necessary capacity” to benefit from the digital economy, and praised the initiative launched by the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, to create a sovereign investment fund to support the development of technology in the Gulf and the Middle East.

They urged all Arab nations to “support this initiative to strengthen the joint Arab economy,” and called on other Arab banks and funds to invest in it.

The summit also praised the role of small and medium businesses across the Arab world for their contribution to flourishing Arab economies, as well as the implementation of the Pan-Arab Renewable Energy Strategy 2030, to ensure power across the region becomes cleaner and more sustainable.

The summit was far from harmonious, though, with the Lebanese foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, addressing the hall to ask the international community “to assume its responsibilities by finding effective solutions for the return of Syrian refugees to their country.”

Bassil called on Arab nations and others to “shoulder the burden, honor their commitments and meet the refugees’ needs.”

There were also disputes over the attendance of the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, as well as the boycott by Libyan delegates.

“I am saddened because of the absence of the Libyan delegation, and by the circumstances that led to this point,” Arab League president, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said.

Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, echoed the words of his foreign minister, calling on the international community “to exert all efforts to provide the safe return of Syrian refugees to their country, and to present incentives so they can contribute to their country’s reconstruction.”

He proposed the establishment of an international Arab bank to help affected countries overcome the crisis, and invited established Arab funds to Beirut to discuss his proposals.

“I deplore the absence of other Arab presidents and kings, but each of them has his reason. Our union remains of great importance given that we will not be able to address the challenges facing our region and peoples, unless we agree on key issues,” Aoun said.

The next Arab Economic and Social Development Summit will be held in Mauritania in 2023.