CAIRO – A group of 14 international and regional rights organizations condemned on Tuesday Egypt’s upcoming presidential election, describing it as neither free nor fair, following the arrest or withdrawal of all but one competitor to the incumbent president.
The head of a minor political party, Moussa Mustafa Moussa, is the sole electoral opponent to President al-Sisi, who previously won 96.9 percent of the vote in the May 2014 election.
“Egypt’s allies should speak out publicly now to denounce these farcical elections, rather than continue with largely unquestioning support for a government presiding over the country’s worst human rights crisis in decades,” the joint statement by the 14 non-governmental organizations said.
Among the signatories were Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organization Against Torture.
“Egypt’s government claims to be in a ‘democratic transition’ but moves further away with every election,” the groups added.
The statement detailed the arrest of the two main electoral candidates – former military chief Sami Anan and army Colonel Ahmed Konsowa – both of whom were imprisoned after announcing their intention to run in Egypt’s 2018 presidential election against al-Sisi, himself a former general.
The NGOs also detailed how in January, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq signaled his desire to participate in the elections, only to back down weeks later, while two other potential candidates withdrew; human rights lawyer Khaled Ali and former member of parliament Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat.
The report called on European countries and the United States, which back Egypt both financially and militarily, to bring up human rights in their dealings with the Egyptian government.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with al-Sisi but did not publically criticize Egypt’s record on human rights and political freedoms, while voicing Washington’s unconditional support for Egypt in its fight against terrorism, particularly the Islamic State terror organization.
In remarks to the press, Tillerson said “the United States, as it does in all countries, supports a transparent, credible electoral process and (that) all citizens be given the right and the opportunity to participate freely and fairly.”
Egypt’s three-day presidential election is scheduled to begin on March 26, with the incumbent al-Sisi seeking a second four-year term in office.