Egypt | Rights groups: General Anan’s forcible disqualification from the presidential race confirms election rigging with potential to exacerbate violence, terrorism, and instability

The undersigned organizations condemn the arrest and disappearance of potential presidential candidate General Sami Anan, the former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, following his declaration of candidacy last week for the presidential elections. With Anan’s arrest, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al- Sisi has confirmed our warning on December 20 that the upcoming election would simply be “a referendum to renew fealty to the sitting president

The undersigned organizations call on international organizations and diplomatic missions to abstain from participating in this charade of the democratic process, which is devoid of the minimum standards and guarantees for free and fair elections. Election monitoring teams should not be sent to Egypt, as they would be used by the Egyptian government to legitimize a process apparently viewed by the president himself as a mere formality. We reiterate our call for the Egyptian state to implement our recommendations ensuring free, competitive, and fair elections before another warning in that same statement comes to pass: “Ensuring the continuation of the current regime through a rigged referendum would smother the potential for a peaceful transfer of power while exacerbating political violence, terrorism, and political instability.”

A mere three days after potential presidential candidate General Sami Anan announced his intention to run on Saturday, January 20, the General Command of the Armed Forces issued a strongly worded statement condemning his candidacy. General Anan was arrested and promptly disappeared moments after the statement was issued, and the military prosecutor issued a gag order on coverage of the ongoing investigation against him. The military’s statement claimed that Anan is an officer subject to call-up duty and therefore ineligible to run without permission from the armed forces, while further claiming that he had falsified official documents verifying the completion of his military service. The statement also accused Anan of “flagrant incitement against the armed forces with the purpose of driving a wedge between the people and the army” in his speech declaring candidacy.

The undersigned organizations express their deep concern at the flagrant and biased interference by the armed forces and state institutions in favor of President al-Sisi in the upcoming presidential elections. This bias is demonstrated clearly and violently by the arrest of General Sami Anan as well as the state’s intimidation and obstruction of other potential candidates. Several days ago, potential candidate Anwar al-Sadat announced that he would not stand for elections, refusing to be “a cardboard competitor or part of a charade.” In previous statements, al-Sadat said he had been met with intransigence by state agencies, which made it impossible for him to simply hold a press conference announcing his position on the elections. He also said members of his campaign had been subjected to clear threats.

In the same context, General Ahmed Shafiq, the former Egyptian prime minister, withdrew his candidacy after he was deported from the UAE and placed under house arrest until he abandoned his decision to run for president. Similarly, a military court sentenced military engineer Colonel Ahmed Qunsuwa to six years in prison after he declared his intention to stand for president. Lawyer Khaled Ali may be disqualified from the elections if he is convicted of false breach of trust charges in a trial that falls short of standards for fairness.

In December of last year, rights organizations issued a statement detailing ten basic guarantees for free and fair elections to ensure that the process was not degraded into a rigged referendum for the sitting president. The most important of these measures were a declaration of neutrality from all state institutions, including the military, toward all candidates; the abstaining from harassment or interference with potential candidates; and the lifting of the state of emergency. We sorely regret that these guarantees were disregarded. The current president and his parliament renewed the state of emergency this month, in clear circumvention of the Egyptian Constitution; while all state institutions have been fervently engaged in rigging the elections for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Signatory organizations

  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  • Nazra for Feminist Studies
  • Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
  • Andalus Institute for Tolerance and anti-Violence Studies (AITAS)
  • Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)