Creating new perspectives since 2009

Egypt: Opposition coalition will not nominate presidential candidate after its member is jailed

September 18, 2023 at 11:28 am

Prominent publisher and political activist, Hisham Kassem [@S_Elhussieny/X]

The Free Current, an alliance of liberal opposition parties in Egypt, yesterday announced that it will not nominate a candidate for the presidential elections scheduled for next spring, after its Secretary-General, Hisham Kassem, was sentenced to six months in prison.

On Saturday, an Egyptian court issued a six-month prison sentence against Kassem, which effectively prevents him from participating in the electoral campaign.

His lawyer, Nasser Amin, said that the rulings have been appealed and a hearing has been set for 7 October.

The Free Current said in a statement yesterday that 64-year-old Kassem “was a potential presidential candidate if basic electoral guarantees were available.”

He had announced the “temporary suspension of all his political participations” and that he would not be running as a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, pointing out that “the political atmosphere will not allow for freedom, integrity, and justice in elections, without which the current regime becomes the competitor and judge, and the results become predetermined.”

Read: US allows much of Egypt military aid despite human rights concerns

On the eve of Kassem’s sentencing, the only opposition figure who announced his intention to run in the presidential elections, Ahmed Al-Tantawi, revealed that his phone had been tapped since September 2021.

Al-Tantawi confirmed his “determination” to continue his campaign despite the doubling of “the rate and seriousness of the illegal and immoral actions carried out by the security services against his campaign.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi intends to nominate himself for a third term. He came to power ten years ago in a bloody military coup which ousted the country’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi.

Human rights organisations have repeatedly accused Egypt of committing widespread human rights violations under Al-Sisi’s regime, including torture and forced disappearances. Al-Sisi, however, denies that there are any political prisoners in Egypt. Stability and security, he insists, are of paramount importance and the authorities are promoting rights by trying to meet basic needs for jobs and housing.

Opposition groups and human rights organisations, though, put the number of political detainees in Egypt as around 60,000 people. Amnesty International put the figure at 114,000 in January 2021.