Cairo: A presidential hopeful who returned to Egypt from exile in recent days has backed away from plans to run in next year’s election, in which incumbent Abdul Fattah Al Sissi is widely expected to seek a second term.
Ahmad Shafik, a former prime minister who fled after losing the 2012 presidential runoff to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammad Mursi, returned from the United Arab Emirates on Saturday evening. His whereabouts remained unknown for 24 hours, however, his lawyer, Dina Adly, later said on Facebook that she had seen the former air force pilot.
Soon after, he spoke by telephone to Dream Television to say he was safe and had checked into a Cairo hotel.
Asked about his presidential bid, which was announced from exile on Nov. 29, Shafik said he remained undecided.
“Now, since I am in Egypt, I’ll examine whether it’s the logical choice or not,” he said.
Shafik served under President Hosni Mubarak during the 2011 revolt that eventually ousted him.
He would have posed the most serious challenge so far to Al Sissi, a former military chief who led the removal of the Brotherhood from power following protests in mid-2013.
Al Sissi won a presidential election the following year, vowing to restore stability to a country rocked by upheaval since 2011.
He’s failed so far to quell a militant insurgency based in the Sinai despite a crackdown on the opposition that’s killed hundreds of Brotherhood supporters and jailed thousands of others since Mursi’s ouster.
An economic reform plan that helped Egypt to win a $12 billion International Monetary Fund loan has rallied foreign currency reserves, but has also worked to send inflation above 30 per cent, deepening hardship in the largely impoverished country.
Only a few candidates have come forward so far for next year’s election.
They include human rights lawyer Khalid Ali, whose bid may be curtailed by a possible legal case.
Another is a little-known army colonel, Ahmad Konsowa, who announced his candidacy in a video the same night as Shafik.
He has not appeared in public since.