Double Standard: Sisi Imprisons Presidential Candidate for Wearing Military Uniform in Announcement

Published December 20th, 2017 - 10:17 GMT
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is a former general who, after overthrowing democratically elected Mohammed Morsi in 2013, wore military uniform to announce his candidacy in 2014 (Twitter)
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is a former general who, after overthrowing democratically elected Mohammed Morsi in 2013, wore military uniform to announce his candidacy in 2014 (Twitter)

After an army colonel was given six years in prison for announcing his intention to run for president in military garb, Egyptians are pointing out the unmissable irony.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is a former general who, after overthrowing democratically elected Mohammed Morsi in 2013, wore military uniform to announce his candidacy in 2014.

For many, the ruling is yet another indication that Sisi will not tolerate any opposition to his rule.

Ahmed Konsowa had said he would run in the 2018 presidential elections in a video early this month.

In the 20-minute clip he wore military uniform and explained that he had been fighting a long legal battle to leave the army following his March 2014 resignation.

He was found guilty by a Cairo military court on Tuesday of "stating political opinions contrary to the requirements of military order.”

Following the ruling, social media was flooded with sarcastic comments. “As if Sisi announced his candidacy wearing a wedding dress,” joked @mahahamed85.

“As if Sisi was dressed up as Santa Claus when he announced his candidature for president,” said @th4ra. @hiaafatah tweeted: “As if [Sisi] was wearing dancing clothes.”

In a television address on March 26 2014, Sisi had announced his candidature for upcoming elections saying: "Today is the last time you’ll see me wearing this [military] uniform.”

“I was honored to wear it to defend the nation and today I am also leaving it behind to defend the nation.”

In June that year he won with 96.1 percent of the vote, amid doubts over the fairness of the elections. 

While the apparent double-standard was a source of amusement for some, many others expressed anger and concern at what they saw was an attempt to stifle dissent.

“Can we understand from this that Sisi is to serve six years as well?” Asked journalist Wael Eskandar. “It is well known the Konsowa was handed six years in prison so he wouldn't be around for the election.”

“Presidential nomination has become a charge [in itself],” wrote @zeinatsedky. “The narcissism of Sisi has increased and overflowed. He wants to imprison all of the opposition.”

Al Jazeera quoted an anonymous “Cairo-based political commentator” as saying that the ruling on Konsowa was "because in Egypt there can be no real power-sharing or transfer of power."

"Ahmed Konsowa is the antithesis of Sisi - he's smart, well spoken, educated and supports the January 25 revolution,” he said. “He presents Egypt with an alternative ... and the idea that an alternative may exist is threatening to the Egyptian regime."

In the video announcing his candidacy, Konsowa had said: "I am only practising my right to run for president, which is a constitutional right for every Egyptian. This is not a call for rebellion or a turning against the military.

"I am not the most courageous among you. I am not a doctor nor am I a philosopher. I am just an individual who like others has seen what our country has come to.

"I only wish to ensure that the goals behind our 2011 revolution are not forgotten or left behind."

It is not the first time an Egyptian presidential candidate has faced hostility from the authorities recently.

Earlier this month, Ahmed Shafik said he had been deported back to Egypt by ally the U.A.E. following the announcement of his candidacy.

In a television interview from Cairo after his return, Shafik suggested that he was reconsidering his campaign.

 

 

Another presidential hopeful, Khaled Ali, was sentenced in September to three months in prison for “public indecency,” in what Amnesty International called a “politically motivated” ruling.

If the verdict is upheld at appeal he will be disqualified from running.

Sisi has not yet expressed his intention to run, saying only that he would contest it “if that is the will of the people.”

In 2016, Human Rights Watch noted, “public criticism of the government remained effectively banned in Egypt.”

Konsowa was praised by many for putting himself forward in such a climate.

Journalist Haytham Abokhalil tweeted: “Colonel Ahmed Konsowa is a brave symbol and icon that we must celebrate and make a symbol to encourage others.”

@shadygh added: “regardless of whether you accept or reject a military candidate in the elections, respect is due to the courage of Colonel #Ahmed_Konsowa who took a step, knowing that he would pay a high price for it…”


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