Former Egyptian lawmaker pulls out of presidential race
CAIRO (AP) — A former Egyptian lawmaker said Monday he will not run in the March presidential election, saying the political “climate” wasn’t conducive to campaigning.
Mohammed Anwar Sadat, nephew of Egypt’s late leader Anwar Sadat, told reporters his decision was partially taken to protect his campaign workers from intimidation or arrest by authorities.
“We don’t want people in the campaign to be hurt,” he said.
He said he has no intention to contest a “lost battle,” and cited emergency laws in force since last April and a 2013 ban on unauthorized demonstrations as further reasons for his decision.
“My decision not to run primarily has to do with the climate in which you don’t feel there will be a genuine competition or equal opportunities,” he said.
“I chose not to be a phony contender or part of a play,” he said. “For at least six months, the media is focusing on the achievements of the president ... they are portraying him as the only candidate who can save this country.”
Sadat, an outspoken critic of the government, was thrown out of parliament last year amid allegations he had leaked official documents to foreign diplomats.
He is the second presidential hopeful to pull out of the election, which is virtually certain to be won by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who has yet to formally announce his candidacy.
Last week, former prime minister and career air force officer Ahmed Shafiq also pulled out of the race, saying he was not the “ideal” person to lead the country at this stage. He was harshly criticized by pro-government media after declaring his intention to run.
Shafiq finished a close second behind the Islamist Mohammed Morsi in the 2012 elections. El-Sissi led the military overthrow of Morsi a year later and was elected in 2014.
Since then, the government has arrested thousands of people, mainly Islamists but also several prominent secular activists, including many who were behind the 2011 uprising that toppled long-ruling autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Street protests have been effectively banned, human rights groups have been placed under severe restrictions and many critics in the media have been silenced.
El-Sissi has said such measures are necessary to restore stability and rebuild the economy after years of unrest, and to combat an Islamic State-led insurgency based in the northern Sinai Peninsula.
Under the constitution, any would-be candidate must have formal “recommendations” from at least 20 lawmakers or 25,000 support signatures from voters, with a minimum of 1,000 each from 15 of Egypt’s 29 provinces.
Most lawmakers have already endorsed el-Sissi.
Sadat claimed his supporters were harassed and threatened by security agents as they processed paperwork to nominate him. He said he was forced to hold Monday’s press conference in his party’s modest headquarters in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis because at least three central Cairo hotels, under pressure from security agencies, refused to rent him a venue.
“We dream of ... an election where the winner is not known until the last moment,” he said.
Another hopeful, rights lawyer Khaled Ali, has also claimed the climate is biased in favor of el-Sissi. Ali became known when he won a court case that annulled Egypt’s transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. The government went ahead with the transfer after the agreement was hurriedly ratified by parliament.
Ali was convicted and sentenced to three months in prison in September for allegedly making an obscene gesture while celebrating the court’s ruling last January. He is appealing the verdict, but if his conviction is upheld he would not be eligible to run.