Former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, presidential hopeful, says UAE blocks return to Cairo

 29 Nov 2017 - 20:35

Former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, presidential hopeful, says UAE blocks return to Cairo
Former Egyptian prime minister Ahmed Shafiq addressing a press conference in Cairo on June 03, 2012. Former Egyptian premier Ahmed Shafiq, who narrowly lost a 2012 election to a since ousted Islamist president, will challenge leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at a poll next year, two aides told AFP. "I can confirm he will run," one of them said of the Hosni Mubarak-era prime minister who left the country in 2012 for the United Arab Emirates. AFP / Mohammed Abed

Reuters, AFP, Anadolu Agency & Bloomberg

Former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, who told Reuters on Wednesday he intended to run in the presidential election early next year, told pan-Arab TV channel Al Jazeera that the United Arab Emirates had barred him from travelling.

Shafiq, an ex-air force commander and presidential candidate, said earlier he had planned to return to Cairo in the coming days from his current location in the UAE, a close ally of Egypt.

UAE officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

"I was surprised that I was banned from leaving the brotherly nation of the United Arab Emirates, for reasons I do not understand," Shafiq said in a video message sent to AFP.

"I was intending to carry out a tour among the Egyptian diaspora before returning to my country in the next few days," said the former prime minister.

While thanking the UAE for hosting him, Shafiq said "I reject this interference in the internal affairs of my country".

But he promised Egyptians he would not back down from his pledge to take part in the presidential election.

Shafiq, who was placed on trial in absentia on corruption charges after narrowly losing the 2012 election to former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, has emerged as a critic and possible contender to Sisi in the past two years.

The former prime minister was acquitted, and his lawyer had said he would be free to return, but it is thought that he fears another case might be brought against him.

The former Egyptian Premier -- the last prime minister of Egypt’s Mubarak era -- plans to run in presidential elections next year, a leading member of his political party said Wednesday, as quoted by Anadolu Agency.

Raouf al-Sayed, deputy head of Shafiq’s National Movement Party, had confirmed that Shafiq planned to run in next year’s poll without providing any additional details.

Shafiq, who has lived in Abu Dhabi since losing 2012 presidential elections, has yet to set a date for his return to Egypt, al-Sayed had said.

Shafiq, 76, briefly served as prime minister under autocratic President Hosni Mubarak, who stepped down in early 2011 following 18 days of popular demonstrations against his regime.

In Egypt’s first-ever free presidential election in 2012, Shafiq lost -- by a narrow margin -- to Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group.

After briefly serving as Egypt’s first civilian president, Morsi was ousted in a bloody military coup in mid-2013.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s current president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi -- who came to power in a 2014 poll following a military coup -- may also contest next year’s scheduled election, though the former military chief who removed Morsi from office in mid-2013 after mass protests and won the presidency the following year, hinted  last month he had yet to decide whether to seek a second term.

Few politicians have declared their intention to run; challengers include rights lawyer Khaled Ali.

Earlier this month,  Sisi announced that the upcoming poll would likely be held in March or April of next year.

Ahmed Shafiq,  has been cleared of all corruption charges and removed from airport watchlists,  Sayed, deputy head of the political party founded by Shafiq from exile, told Bloomberg.

“There is nothing to prevent him from returning to Egypt and running in elections,” Sayed said by phone on Wednesday. Shafiq’s mobile phone was switched off.

Shafiq’s Egyptian Patriotic Movement will hold a general conference on Dec. 23 to discuss the elections and formally announce its candidate, Sayed said.