Sex Tapes and Dress Codes: Is Egypt's Presidential Election Turning into a Farce?

Published January 10th, 2018 - 04:08 GMT
Perhaps the most bizarre element of the whole thing is that, despite apparently moving to eliminate all potential opponents, Sisi himself has not yet declared an intention to run (Kremlin)
Perhaps the most bizarre element of the whole thing is that, despite apparently moving to eliminate all potential opponents, Sisi himself has not yet declared an intention to run (Kremlin)
  • Egypt's presidential election has become "theatrical"
  • Candidates are dropping like flies
  • Allegations of sex tapes, blackmail and house arrest are circulating
  • It seems unclear who will stand at all

 

“One candidate in jail. Another on trial. A third out of the picture following a house arrest scenario. It's presidential election season in Egypt,” tweeted journalist Jared Malsin on Monday.

As candidates drop like flies, following leaked recordings in a major international paper and amid stories of sex tapes and blackmail, the upcoming vote is starting to appear farcical.

That certainly seems to be the opinion of non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute, Timothy Kaldas, who said in a tweet Tuesday: “Is it bad that often when I get asked about Egypt’s presidential election my first inclination is to to respond saying I’m a political analyst, not a theater critic?”

In fact, some of the stories surrounding next spring’s poll are so bizarre you almost could not make them up.

Last month, reports suggested that Ahmed Shafik had been first placed under house arrest in the U.A.E. and deported back to Egypt.

The former prime minister, who quit his campaign Sunday, later denied the story but controversy continued to surround him.

While he cited his long absence from Egypt after having lost in his 2012 bid as the reason for his change of heart, a lawyer representing him told the New York Times he had been coerced by the government.

In a report Wednesday, Middle East Eye claimed that Shafik had been forced to withdraw following threats to expose a “sex tape” and corruption. Citing sources close to Shafik, the story alleged that “people close to [...] el-Sisi” were behind the ultimatum.

That was not even the only sensational story surrounding Shafik this week. Leaked audio appeared to expose a member of Egyptian intelligence, Capt. Ashraf al-Kholi, pushing a prominent television presenter to smear Shafik as a Muslim Brotherhood supporter.

And it's not just Shafik. Egyptians have taken to reeling off the opponents who have been effectively sidelined as a threat to President Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi in a list.

“Shafik won’t stand, Khaled Ali won’t stand, Hamdin won’t stand, Essam Heggi won’t stand.”

Yet another potential rival to Sisi was removed Tuesday. The so-called “Presidential Team” announced its intention to boycott the elections in a Facebook post.

Space Scientist Essam Heggi’s initiative had promised a political alternative, “to bring together many experts on running the country” and move away from the “rigid on-man state.”

However, after a date for the elections was set by the national election commission Monday, it pulled out, citing “the impossible requirements included therein.”

Human rights lawyer and opposition leader Khaled Ali is disqualified from running as he appeals a conviction for “violating public decency.”

Meanwhile, army colonel Ahmed Konsowa was imprisoned last month for wearing his military uniform in a video to announce his candidacy. Sisi himself, Egyptians were quick to point out, had worn military dress during his own 2014 announcement.

Perhaps the most bizarre element of the whole thing is that, despite apparently moving to eliminate all potential opponents, Sisi himself has not yet declared an intention to run.

"It doesn't suit me as a president to stay one more day against the will of the Egyptians," he said in an interview last November.

Still, massive efforts have been made to secure him a public mandate, through the “to build it” campaign which has seen thousands of ordinary citizens sign forms nominating him.

 

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