In Egypt’s Presidential Election, the Real Drama Is on the Sidelines

  • Former Islamist presidential hopeful and politician arrested
  • Aboul-Fotouh to be questioned by state security prosecutors

Egyptian officials have arrested a top Islamist who ran in the 2012 presidential race, the latest figure ensnared in the crackdown surrounding President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s re-election bid.

Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, the head of the Egypt Strong party, was arrested on orders issued by state security prosecutors. The independent al-Shorouk newspaper said criminal complaints were filed by several lawyers claiming that he was “inciting against the nation and creating confusion through media hostile to Egypt.”

Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh

Photographer: Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images

Aboul-Fotouh joins a growing list of people detained in the run-up to the March 26-28 race. El-Sisi, who was elected in 2014, is seeking a second term -- and has made it clear that he won’t tolerate dissent that he and officials say could derail the gains the country has made over the past four years. His re-election, in what critics say is a hostile campaign climate, seems all but assured.

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His sole challenger is a little-known lawmaker and staunch supporter who registered for the contest with minutes to spare. Other presidential hopefuls, including a former armed forces chief of staff, a former premier, a prominent lawyer and a little-known colonel, have either been disqualified, arrested or bowed out of the race.

Aboul-Fotouh had contended in the first presidential elections held after the 2011 uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. A former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, he quit the group and ran as a moderate. His arrest late Wednesday, along with several members of the party, came shortly after his return from London.

Al-Shorouk said he was to be questioned by state security prosecutors later Thursday.

Aboul-Fotouh has largely kept a low profile over the past few years as authorities engaged in a sweeping and violent crackdown on the Brotherhood after the 2013 military-backed popular uprising that pushed President Mohamed Mursi from power. Mursi was fielded by the Brotherhood, which has since been declared a terrorist organization.

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