Egypt’s Shafiq backtracks on Sisi criticism

Ex-presidential candidate Shafiq denied that he criticized army chief al-Sisi’s expected bid for the upcoming presidential elections

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Former Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq has distanced himself from a leaked recording in which he is reportedly heard criticizing army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi over his expected bid to participate in the upcoming presidential elections.

Shafiq, who came second after the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammad Mursi won the presidential race in 2012, described his comments in the leaked audio excerpt as taken out of context, Ahram Online reported Thursday.

Shafiq, who is a prominent former military man, did not specify when or where the comments were made but said he expressed his opinion when speculation initially emerged on whether Sisi would enter the presidential race.

According to the leaked audio, Shafiq dubbed the elections scheduled in April as “farce.”

“I know very well they will fix all the ballot boxes,” the New York Times quoted Shafiq as saying in the leaked recording of a private conversation.

In the recording, he said he would not run because the new government was rigging the race in favor pf Sisi.

“I have taken myself out of this loop because the election is going to be a farce,” he said.

He added: “They will fix everything for him” and “this is going to be a comedy show.”

Mursi was toppled by a popularly-backed ouster on July 30. Ever since, Sisi has grown in popularity with many expecting him to shed his military garb to be the country’s new president.

Also, the army issued a statement in January giving Sisi the green light to leave his military post and run for president.

However, al-Masry al-Youm newspaper on Wednesday reported that the Egyptian army has denied that it is grooming Sisi to be the new president.

In a statement, the army said it is Sisi’s “personal decision” on whether he will stand for president.

Meanwhile, the first Egyptian politician to announce his participation in the race was the leftist Hamdeen Sabahi.

Sabahi, one of the prominent leaders of the National Salvation Front, was among the politicians involved in the toppling of Mursi.

In an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel in early March, Sabahi said he respected Sisi, but advised the military not to get involved in the elections as it would create divisions in a country that has already witnessed “two revolutions.”