Egypt arrests former army chief who made presidential bid

Sami Anan accused of ‘incitement against armed forces’ is third Sisi opponent to face sanctions

Former  Egyptian armed forces chief of staff Sami Anan last week said that he planned to contest the March presidential poll. File photograph: Amr Nabil/AP Photo

Former Egyptian armed forces chief of staff Sami Anan last week said that he planned to contest the March presidential poll. File photograph: Amr Nabil/AP Photo

 

The Egyptian army has arrested a former chief of staff, accusing him of “open incitement against the armed forces”, in what his campaign said was an apparent move to prevent him competing against president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in upcoming elections.

Sami Anan, who last week said that he planned to contest the March presidential poll, was detained on Tuesday, according to his Facebook page and Egyptian media reports.

Mr Anan is the third military man to face punitive measures after declaring that they would challenge Mr Sisi, a former defence minister who is backed by the army, security agencies and a tightly controlled media.

Mr Sisi came to power after leading a popularly backed military coup in 2013 against his elected Islamist predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr Sisi is expected to easily secure a second term, but critics accuse him of ensuring that he faces no serious challenges.

An army statement read on state television said Mr Anan had breached military regulations by announcing his candidacy without obtaining prior permission and that he had committed “crimes” including forging official documents to enable him to run. It said the declaration of his candidacy contained “open incitement against the armed forces with the aim of causing a rift between it and the great Egyptian people”.

Mr Sisi won the 2014 elections on the back of a wave of support from large sections of the population that feared the Islamists. But his popularity has dimmed, mainly as a result of harsh economic measures the government imposed to secure a loan deal with the International Monetary Fund.

He has also presided over a massive crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, which has since been extended to secular opponents and young activists who were at the forefront of the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

Under Mr Sisi, demonstrations have been severely restricted and space for dissent and independent politics has all but disappeared. The diversity of opinions and candidates that marked the 2012 elections have vanished.

Muslim Brotherhood

Mr Anan is not seen as a popular figure, but some critics of the regime had hoped that competition would breathe life into the country’s stagnant politics and provide opportunities for debate.

Although he was ousted as chief of staff by Mr Morsi, Mr Anan has been attacked by the media as a candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood.

An exiled leader of the Islamist group publicly offered their support earlier this week if Mr Anan were to meet a set of conditions. A spokesman for the Anan campaign denied any links with the group.

Mr Sisi has already seen off challenges by two military men who planned to run against him.

Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force general who served briefly as prime minister in 2011, was deported from the United Arab Emirates and placed under guard in a hotel after he announced his candidacy in November. Mr Shafiq, a former presidential candidate who narrowly lost to Mr Morsi six years ago, was seen as potentially a credible challenger to Mr Sisi. He withdrew his bid for the presidency this month.

Ahmed Konsowa, a serving colonel was sentenced to six years in prison in December for posting a video in which he criticised Mr Sisi’s management of the country and said he had been frustrated in his efforts to resign from the army to run for president. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018