Egypt: Sisi Laments Lack of Challengers After Arresting, Intimidating Opposition Leaders

Rights activists accuse Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of running an ultra-authoritarian regime
EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY/AFP/File AHMED FUAD

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, expected to handily win Egypt’s presidential elections next week without impediment after arresting or intimidating potential opponents out of running, argued that the voters in one of the most populous Muslim countries in the world are “not ready” for greater choice.

The Egyptian strongman, expected to once again assume the office of the presidency after winning the March 26-28 vote by a substantial margin, claimed that he had nothing to do with the lack of candidates, reports Reuters.

“You are blaming me for something that I have nothing to do with,” declared the prospectively re-elected President Sisi said in the interview that was aired on major Egyptian channels.

“I swear to God, I wished 1,2,3 or even 10 distinguished people [ran] and you choose,” he added. “We are not ready, isn’t it a shame … we have more than 100 parties, nominate someone.”

The lack of challengers has prompted several analysts, namely Wachira Maina, a constitutional lawyer in Africa, to dub Sisi Egypt’s pharaonic president, given the lack of credible candidates running against him.

Technically a democracy, it appears Egypt will continue to be ruled by a high-ranking officer who is using the military to rule.

Referring presidential candidates, Reuters reveals:

Except for one who has come out in support of Sisi, all former challengers dropped over alleged intimidation. … Two prominent former military men made surprise announcements late last year and in January that they would run against Sisi, with indications from the street that their bids might be popular.

One of them, ex-military chief of staff Sami Anan, was arrested in January, accused of illegally running for public office, and remains detained. The other, former air force commander and prime minister Ahmed Shafik, also dropped his presidential bid.

Reuters learned from human rights groups that the Sisi administration has been silencing criticism by cracking down on dissenters in the media.

After a popular uprising overthrew Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 2014, then-chief of the Army Sisi assumed control of the country, ultimately becoming president.

Some analysts suggest security has deteriorated in the country, particularly when it comes to Christian minorities targeted by the likes of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), which primarily operates in the restive Sinai peninsula region. However, Sisi’s anti-terrorism credentials have played well in the west, yielding praise from U.S. President Donald Trump who has lauded the Egyptian leader for a “tremendous job under trying circumstances.”

ISIS attacks have killed and injured hundreds, including adherents of the mystic Sufism side of Islam and Coptic Christians.

In response, Sisi has launched a crackdown on the jihadist with no pity, taking into custody about 60,000 people on terrorism charges.

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