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Shafiq between Abu Dhabi and Cairo: A possible alternative, not a candidate

Mubarak-era minister Ahmed Shafiq, who declared his intention to run in Egypt’s 2018 presidential elections last week, said in a phone interview Sunday night on TV program “Al-Ashera Masa’an” (10 pm) that he was mulling over his candidacy.

Earlier on Sunday his family said they had been unable to reach him since he arrived in Cairo the day before, having been deported from the United Arab Emirates. Shafiq and his family have been living there since 2012, when he narrowly lost the presidential election to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated candidate Mohamed Morsi.

Shafiq’s daughter Amira told Mada Masr that her father had been apprehended and his rights were being violated, saying his whereabouts were unknown.

On “Al-Ashera Masa’an,” the 76-year-old former Air Force commander told host Wael al-Ibrashy that he had announced his intention to run for president “while I was in the Emirates,” and said that he would think about it more having come to Cairo, where he will “see what is happening in the streets.”

Shafiq confirmed that he arrived in Egypt on a private jet, but denied claims that he was arrested. He said he was received at Cairo airport by prominent Egyptian officials and was staying in a Cairo hotel until his house was made ready for him after his five-year absence.

He said his family was still in the UAE, adding that Emirati officials had gone to their residence and kindly offered help and extra services to his three daughters “in the absence of their father.”

Shafiq announced his intention to run in the 2018 elections in a video statement on November 29. Later the same day, another video was released on Al Jazeera in which he claimed that he had been prevented from leaving the UAE “for reasons I don’t understand.” Emirati authorities denied this claim.

According to a report by privately owned Egyptian daily Al-Shorouk in May 2015, intermediaries close to the Egyptian government who had traveled to the UAE asked Shafiq to stay away from politics and not come back to Egypt.

On Sunday, a European diplomat who asked to remain anonymous told Mada Masr that the UAE had actively intervened to put an end to corruption accusations against Shafiq so that it did not appear to be hosting a fugitive, especially as he had showed support for the ouster of his former election rival Morsi in 2013, after the latter had been president for a year.

Abu Dhabi hosted Shafiq since 2012 because “he represented a possible alternative in case the need for it arises,” according to the source, who conducted a long visit to the UAE recently and met officials associated with relations between Egypt and the UAE.

But whatever its evaluation of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s performance, the source said, the UAE did not see the need for Shafiq to nominate himself to become Egypt’s next president now, and from Abu Dhabi.

The source added that “the Emirati decision, which was taken after long discussion, was to continue supporting Sisi, at least for another presidential term.”

In the past week, Egypt’s state-owned media have published accusations against Shafiq. Al-Ahram newspaper claimed that his lawyer was negotiating a deal with television networks affiliated to the banned Muslim Brotherhood to promote his candidacy during the elections.

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