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Egypt arrests former army chief who made presidential bid

25 January 2018

The strongest remaining challenger to President Sisi in the elections scheduled for March has been detained by the military.

The army statement accusing Sami Anan of violating military rules and regulations.

These breaches, the army asserted, had included a failure to obtain the military's consent before announcing his presidential bid; "inciting" the public against Egypt's armed forces; and "falsifying official documents".

If only el-Sissi runs in the March 26-28 election, it would resemble the one-candidate referendums that confirmed presidents with "yes" votes routinely over 95 percent during decades of authoritarian rule in Egypt, starting with the establishment of the republic almost 70 years go.

The sidetracking of Anan by the army and NEC is seen as a calculated move to eliminate the last real challenge to incumbent president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

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Another presidential hopeful, rights and opposition lawyer Khaled Ali, announced last November his intention to join the presidential race.

A top candidate in Egypt's upcoming presidential elections was forced to abandon his campaign after he was arrested and accused of running for office without permission from the armed forces.

The constitution of Egypt requires that election proceedings shall not begin earlier than 120 days from the date of the end of the current presidential term, which ends on June 8 and the results shall not be announced later than 30 days before the date of the end of the current presidential term.

Sisi was elected president in 2014, a year after leading the military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi when he was himself commander in chief.

Supporters say Sisi has brought more security since 2013, although the country faces a stubborn Islamic State insurgency in the North Sinai region. His campaign was halted in its tracks.

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Last month a military court sentenced Colonel Ahmed Konsowa to six years in jail after he announced his intention to stand.

Veteran air forces commander and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, who fled Egypt after narrowly losing to Morsi in the 2012 elections, announced earlier in January his withdrawal from the presidential race after coming back to Egypt from the United Arab Emirates, where he spent the past five years.

The letter by Youssef Nada, posted on his Facebook account Monday, has provided media loyal to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi with additional ammunition to link the would-be candidate, former chief of staff Sami Annan, to the banned Brotherhood.

The case was pursued "for nothing except to provide a legal excuse that would prevent us from running", he said.

Ahead of the vote, the overwhelmingly pro-el-Sissi media have been building a personality cult portraying him as the only man qualified to lead, while denouncing each potential challenger.

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But the lawyer had faced nearly insurmountable challenges from the start, initially in the form of a court case accusing him of making "an obscene gesture" outside a Cairo court.

Egypt arrests former army chief who made presidential bid