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Hazem Abdel Azeem faces backlash following controversial testimonial on parliament

Telecommunications professor and liberal politician Hazem Abdel Azeem has been the subject of much scrutiny this week following a testimonial he published directly implicating the president and intelligence in the recent parliamentary elections. 

The post, titled “A truthful testimony on the president’s parliament,” was published on January 1, detailing the interference of the president’s office as well as the General Intelligence Services in the electoral vote to guarantee two-thirds of parliamentary seats.

“I had to write this testimonial despite the risk of the aftermath,” Abdel Azeem wrote.

A former avid campaigner for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Abdel Azeem said he was summoned for a meeting by a presidential aide at the Presidential Palace, where was told he would be appointed to the upcoming parliament and that he would head its youth committee.

When he refused, a presidential aide later asked him to attend a meeting at General Intelligence Services, agreeing that it would be better if he were elected, and explaining that they want him to head an electoral list they are preparing.

The meeting, Abdel Azeem said, took place in February 2015 at the General Intelligence Services to announce an electoral list – For the Love of Egypt – that would run in the parliamentary elections.  

After struggling with the idea for some time, Abdel Azeem said he later withdrew from the list.

In his testimonial, Abdel Azeem concluded that the elections weren’t fair and that the lack of integrity goes beyond rigging the vote.

“It is not just about rigging the ballot,” he wrote. “The president and his institutions’ interference makes [the elections] unfair and defeats the purpose of equal opportunity and competition and is unconstitutional.”

In April 2014, Sisi’s presidential campaign formed a youth committee and appointed Abdel Azeem to head it. The committee also included Tamarod founder Mahmoud Badr and co-founder Tarek al-Kholy.

Following his testimonial, Abdel Azeem faced backlash in local media, with several columnists deeming him a traitor.

In the privately owned Al-Watan newspaper, Mahmoud Kardousy said Abdel Azeem’s testimonial aimed at destroying parliament, calling him a liar and a thug.

Also for Al-Watan, member of parliament and of the For the Love of Egypt coalition, Mostafa Bakry, wrote a commentary titled “The traitors and the road to hell,” referring to political activists’ intentions over the past five years.

“They don’t want reform or a change in the regime,” he wrote. “They just want to bring down the state.”

He said these activists mislead people into thinking they were part of a revolution, adding that they recieve funding from abroad to hold protests against military rule.

Bakry refers to Abdel Azeem specifically, saying that following the ouster of Mohamed Morsi in 2013, he was active in Sisi’s campaign but was disappointed when he wasn’t given a position or a ministry to head, and so decided to wage war against the state.

The same newspaper also ran a commentary by Ammar Ali Hassan, entitled “Who will respond to Hazem Abdel Azeem?,” urging those who were mentioned in Abdel Azeem’s testimonial to respond to the accusations.

In Youm7, Dandrawy al-Hawary spoke about the difference between the donkey and the strategic political activist. He said the political activist doesn’t learn from his mistakes, or make use of the “brain God gave him.” He explained that activists haven’t learned from the collapse of states that were part of the Arab Spring, and where the Islamic State is now a dominant force.

He said now that Egypt survived and is finally back on the right track. “The activists are recreating the same scenario over in the lead up to January 25 to hand over the country to the Islamic State,” he explained.

In response, Abdel Azeem published another post titled “Is speaking out or silence betrayal?” explaining why he took time to reveal his account of the elections.

He said that he faced an ethical dilemma in doing so, wondering whether revealing what happened is betrayal to the people who trusted him with this information.

“Was what I was entrusted with a public or private matter?” he asked, before concluding that it was a matter of the people’s will. 

“So is silence betrayal? he wrote. Is it betrayal to the June 30 spirit?”

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