Wednesday,22 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)
Wednesday,22 August, 2018
Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Shafik on the offensive

Former president Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafik has denied being part of a conspiracy against President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Al-Ahram Weekly

Former prime minister and 2012 presidential elections candidate Ahmed Shafik took many by surprise last week when he announced he would be giving up politics and resigning as chairman of the Egyptian National Movement (ENM) Party.

Shafik, who has been living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since losing in the elections to ousted former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2012, complained that he had been the subject of a “hostile media campaign” over recent days, notably denying “allegations that I and a number of people loyal to me, including businessmen and leading former members of former president Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), are orchestrating a conspiracy against President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.”

The allegations said that Shafik and others were hoping to form a coalition capable of winning a majority in the upcoming parliamentary elections and helping Shafik to return to Egypt.  

Some press reports said businessmen close to Mubarak’s NDP had distributed thousands of leaflets including the words “The You Are the President Movement wants Shafik to come back to Egypt.” The Movement claims Shafik was the real winner of 2012’s presidential elections and hence should be the legitimate president of Egypt.

The alleged conspiracy, according to several private newspapers and television channels, had forced the authorities to intervene by ordering Shafik and leading officials from his ENM Party to give up their political campaign.

The reports also alleged that the authorities had intervened to prevent the airing of a TV interview with Shafik on the Al-Asema channel due to his alleged harsh criticisms of president Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

Shafik said the TV criticisms had been “taken out of context.” He also launched a scathing attack against the private media, accusing it of “fabricating stories and disseminating lies” and singling out the daily Al-Shorouk newspaper owned by Ibrahim Al-Moallem, a media mogul and publisher of books.  

Shafik accused Al-Shorouk of “acting as a forum for the Muslim Brotherhood” and trying to drive a wedge between him and president Al-Sisi. “They fabricated the story about my alleged conspiracy against president Al-Sisi,” Shafik said.

In an interview with controversial TV host and Chief Editor of the daily Al-Bawaba newspaper Abdel-Rehim Ali on 17 June, Shafik said “I had to resign due to the difficult circumstances I faced while doing my job,” denying that he was ordered by the authorities to give up politics.

“Nobody can order me to abandon politics. This would be something I would only do out of my own free will,” Shafik said, adding that “state officials do not need to resort to a newspaper owned by a Muslim Brotherhood man like Ibrahim Al-Moallem to send me or my supporters a warning message.”

In a statement, Yehia Qadri, vice-president of Shafik’s ENM Party, announced on 15 June that the party’s board had refused Shafik’s resignation. “The party’s Supreme Council decided to form a delegation to travel to Abu Dhabi where Shafik has lived for security reasons since he lost the presidency to Morsi to convince him to remain in office as leader of the party,” Qadri said.

He indicated that “the party and its members see Shafik as a ‘principle’ and not just a person” and that he was the “true symbol” of the party and would remain its head for life.

Shafik founded the Egyptian National Movement Party in December 2012 as a balancing force to the Muslim Brotherhood.

After losing to Morsi in the 2012 presidential elections by a thin margin, Shafik left Egypt for the UAE. He was not able to come back to Egypt after several Muslim Brotherhood officials, in power in 2012 and 2013, decided to prosecute him on charges of embezzling public funds when he was head of the Pilots’ Association for Land Development in 1992.

Essam Sultan, a former MP and a leading official with the Islamist Wasat Party, accused Shafik of having helped Mubarak’s two sons Gamal and Alaa to buy land near Ismailia at below market prices. Shafik, who was acquitted of the charges in December 2013, said Mubarak’s two sons had acquired the land because their father, a former air pilot, was a member of the Association.

Shafik served under the 30-year-old rule of former president Hosni Mubarak in various capacities. He was commander of Egypt’s air force between 1996 and 2002 and was later appointed minister of civil aviation, staying in office until he was promoted to prime minister at the end of January 2011, or a few days after massive national protests erupted against the Mubarak regime.

Shafik left office as prime minister in March 2011, but decided to contest the country’s presidential elections in May 2012. In the second round of the elections he received 12.5 million votes (or 48 per cent), while his main rival Mohamed Morsi received 13.2 million votes (51 per cent).

The votes Shafik received in 2012 led many to view him as a popular hero, with some even insisting that he was the real winner of the elections. Several press reports have asserted that in recent meetings in preparation for the upcoming parliamentary elections leading officials from Shafik’s party have even said he is “the legitimate president of Egypt” and should be in office.

Shafik said he had refused to contest the 2014 presidential elections when he knew that Al-Sisi would be a candidate. “When Al-Sisi decided to contest the elections, I was the first to declare my support,” he said, adding that “Al-Sisi and I belong to the military, and I can’t allow myself to be a source of division in the military.”

Shafik denied that he had made contact with Gamal, Mubarak’s younger son, or with Ahmed Ezz, a former NDP business tycoon, to begin preparations for the upcoming parliamentary polls.

He complained that although he has been acquitted of most of the charges against him he is still on the travel ban list. This “means I could be arrested the moment I reach Cairo Airport,” he said. “I cannot come back to Egypt as long as my name is still on this list.”

Qadri said he would leave Egypt for the UAE on Wednesday to meet Shafik. “We will do our best to convince him not to resign and to come back to Egypt to participate in rebuilding the country,” Qadri- said.

Mustafa Bakri, editor of the weekly Al-Osbou, told the Weekly that Shafik had been facing a defamation campaign. “Some of the private media loyal in one way or another to the Muslim Brotherhood have targeted Shafik, trying to use him as a potential source of trouble and division inside the army,” Bakri said.

He also argued that the insistence of some ENM members that Shafik was the legitimate president of Egypt might have caused friction between him and president Al-Sisi.

The daily Al-Ahram said on Tuesday that Shafik’s party was suffering from internal divisions, with one group of supporters leading the “You Are the President” campaign and another group standing out against it.

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