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Egypt could prosecute opposition for boycotting Sisi's 'one-horse' elections

Egypt has launched a wide-scale military crackdown since the Sisi coup of summer 2013 [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 February, 2018

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The move is yet another sign that authorities will not allow even the slightest questioning of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's continued rule ahead of the March vote

Egypt's prosecutor general has launched an investigation into leading opposition figures who have called for a boycott of next month's presidential election, over accusations they are attempting to "overthrow the regime."

Nabil Sadeq's office in a statement late on Monday said it had referred a complaint filed against 13 individuals by a lawyer named Mohammed Hamid Salam to the Giza prosecutor's office, which may now call them in for examination.

The move is yet another sign that authorities will not allow even the slightest questioning of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's continued rule ahead of the March vote, in which he is the only serious candidate despite a last-minute bid launched by a supporter.

A coalition of eight opposition parties and some 150 prominent pro-democracy figures, including former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, announced a boycott last month. The complaint accuses them of "incitement against the state" and trying to destabilise the country.

Authorities have launched a far-reaching crackdown on dissent since Sisi led the military overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi in 2013, and pro-government media routinely portray dissent as part of a foreign conspiracy to sow chaos.

Khaled Dawoud, head of the Constitution Party and one of the boycotters, denied the allegations in a Facebook post, saying that such "lies" themselves were incitement and that he "cannot understand what the prosecutor general is concerned about." Dawoud is an outspoken critic of what he calls the current wave of "oppression."

Former lawmaker Mohammed Anwar Sadat, a nephew of assassinated Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, said Egypt needed a national dialogue and "real independent institutions" in order to "avoid escalations and clashes." Sadat had considered running but cancelled his bid last month, saying he feared for the safety of his supporters.

"The political freeze that we are living, which is similar to a blood clot around the heart, if left uncontrolled, the whole body will be in danger," he said in a Tuesday statement.

The complaint now under investigation says that by holding a press conference to call for a boycott, the group besmirched Egypt's image at home and abroad. But democracy advocates have already roundly dismissed the election.

"Having presided over four years of consolidation of power, eliminating any real opportunity for the opposition in the upcoming presidential elections and achieving near full control over the media, Sisi has effectively guaranteed his victory," wrote Nancy Okail of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in a report on the election released Monday.

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