More than a dozen international and regional rights groups have said that next month’s presidential election in Egypt does not meet the minimum requirements to be called free and fair, and called on Cairo’s western allies to denounce the “farcical” election.
The incumbent, the general-turned-president Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, is virtually certain to win the March vote, his only challenger being an obscure politician and one of his most ardent supporters.
Moussa Mustafa Moussa entered the race in the eleventh hour, sparing Sisi and his government the embarrassment of a single candidate election.Opposition party leaders who called for a boycott of the vote are being investigated on allegations they are seeking to destabilise the country.
The 14 groups, including Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists, said on Tuesday that Sisi’s government had suppressed freedoms, arrested potential candidates and rounded up their supporters.
As head of Egypt’s military Sisi overthrew his democratically elected Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013, and has since cracked down hard on dissent, jailing thousands of Morsi supporters and scores of activists behind the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
He was elected to office in 2014, and has since silenced most critics in the media, rolled back freedoms won in the 2011 uprising and placed draconian restrictions on demonstrations and the work of rights groups.
“The Egyptian government has trampled over even the minimum requirements for free and fair elections for the planned March 26-28 vote,” the 14 groups said in a statement. “Seven years after Egypt’s 2011 uprising, the government has made a mockery of the basic rights for which protesters fought.”
In a related development, Egypt’s military said on Monday that it would take action to “safeguard its honour and dignity” following incendiary comments by the country’s former top anti-corruption official.
Hesham Genena told a private Arabic-language TV station that the former military chief of staff Sami Anan was in possession of documents incriminating the country’s leadership. The documents are kept abroad and would be released if any harm came to Anan, he said.
The military arrested Anan last month, days after he declared his intention to run for president. It says he faces charges of incitement against the military and forgery.
In a statement, the military said Genena’s comments raised suspicions about the state and its institutions, and that it would refer the matter to relevant authorities to initiate legal proceedings.
Genena, who was to have been among Anan’s top campaign aides, was not immediately available for comment. He led Egypt’s watchdog agency until Sisi fired him in 2016.