Fourteen international human rights organizations have said that Egypt’s presidential election, scheduled for March, is “neither free nor fair.”
“President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has relentlessly stifled basic freedoms and arrested potential candidates and rounded up their supporters,” the groups said in a Tuesday statement.
They called on the United States, the European Union and European states to halt their security assistance to Egypt, which “could be used in internal repression” by Egyptian authorities, urging instead that aid to Egypt be directed toward “concrete improvements to protect basic rights.”
Egypt’s political environment is described in the statement as denying “people’s rights to political participation and to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.” The rights groups called on authorities to release those arrested for engaging in politics, including all those who were arrested after expressing their intentions to run for office.
Signatories of the statement include Human Rights Watch, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, EuroMed Rights, the International Commission of Jurists, the Project on Middle East Democracy, Reporters Without Borders and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.
The groups mentioned that 44 percent less monitoring organizations were granted permission to oversee the 2018 election, compared to the previous 2014 electoral process, citing this as evidence of an “atmosphere of retaliation against dissenting voices,” which renders “effective monitoring of the elections extremely difficult.”
“Seven years after Egypt’s 2011 uprising, the government has made a mockery of the basic rights for which protesters fought,” the signatories asserted.
In January, the Civil Democratic Movement, a recently formed alliance of opposition parties, called for a boycott of the election, citing the “total deprivation of the Egyptian people’s right to choose a president,” while another group of opposition figures also called for a boycott of the election and for the National Elections Authority to be dismantled.
Tuesday’s statement echoes the criticism leveled by local opposition groups, who condemned Egyptian authorities’ treatment of Sisi’s contenders in the months leading up to the March election.
Potential candidates were arrested, pressured not to run or withdrew in protest against mounting political repression, including the routine arrest of activists, forced disappearances and threats issued to Sisi’s potential contenders.
Former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Sami Anan’s presidential campaign was suspended in January after he was arrested for announcing his intention to run for office. Anan was accused of announcing his bid without first acquiring a permit from the military, aiming to incite a rift between the Armed Forces and the public and forging his end of service documents.
Rights lawyer Khaled Ali withdrew his candidacy in January, shortly after Anan’s arrest, citing government violations and unfair competition.
Former member of Parliament Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat also withdrew from the candidacy process earlier in January, stating that the general political climate could place his supporters and campaign members at risk. His announcement came one week after Mubarak-era Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq pulled out of the 2018 race.
Armed Forces Colonel Ahmed Konsowa was sentenced in December to six years in prison, charged with violating military bylaws, after he announced his intention to run for president while wearing military uniform.