In the early hours of Saturday January 20, former Egyptian Chief of Staff Major General Sami Anan announced his intention to run for president in the upcoming elections. The Tuesday after, Anan was arrested and a statement by the Armed Forces, aired on state TV, announced he is being investigated for a number of violations.
These include breaking military codes by running for a political post without obtaining the necessary permissions, incitement against the army, and forgery of election documents. Between the surprise of the presidential bid and the shock of the presidential hopeful’s quick demise, countless questions beg for an answer.
According to General Sayed Hashem, former head of the Military Judiciary, Anan’s actions are punishable under the military penal code. “Sami Anan is still subject to be recalled by the army, which means that according to military law he needs to get permission before running for president,” he said. “He also forged official documents in order to have his name listed among potential presidential candidates.”
Hashem added that Anan is also accused of inciting the people against the Egyptian army, in reference to his criticism of the current regime. “Incitement can be punished by expulsion from the army, but this is just a disciplinary action,” Hashem added. “However, the other charges are definitely punishable by prison sentences according to military law.”
Journalist Mohamed Basal quoted a legal source as saying that all members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces SCAF have since the January 2011 revolution become on call for life after they reach the age of retirement.
“This applies to Anan who had to submit a former request to end his on-call status before running for president and can only run after obtaining the approval of the minister of defense,” he wrote. Basal explained that this did not apply to current president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi who had not reached the age of retirement when he decided to run for president. “He, therefore, went through different procedures.”
Alliance with the Brotherhood?
Apart from the legal violations Anan might have committed, speculations over the political aspect of the issue have been rife. This particularly applied to talk about a possible alliance between Anan and the Muslim Brotherhood. For political analyst Akram al-Alfi, Anan was the only candidate through whom they can go back to the political scene. “Also, it was in Anan’s best interest to curry favor with entities known for their opposition of the current regime and of course the Muslim Brotherhood were on top of those,” he said.
“The same applies to revolutionary youths.” That is why, Alfi argued, Anan chose two figures for vice presidents that are acceptable by both. Expert in political Islam Ahmed Ban refuted this argument and stressed that Anan is as much of an enemy for the Muslim Brotherhood as Sisi. “We should not forget that it was former president Mohamed Morsi who dismissed Anan,” he said. “Plus, while the Muslim Brotherhood would want to support a candidate who can challenge Sisi, they will never do so if this candidate does not give them the guarantees they want and Anan did not do that.” Ban added that the Muslim Brotherhood are no longer one voting entity as they were before, so it is very hard to determine who they might support. “The group disintegrated after Morsi’s ouster and it no longer has the mobilizing power it enjoyed before and which reached its peak in 2012.”
Political analyst and senior nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council H. A. Hellyer argued that it was in the best interest of the Egyptian administration to stop Anan from running. “Anan never stood a chance of winning the election, but he did stand an excellent chance of disrupting the system more generally,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like the establishment is remotely interested in that scenario in the slightest – a critical mass within the establishment is on the same page, and isn’t willing to let anyone not on the same page to move beyond particular lines.”
Middle East expert Nirvana Mahmoud argued that Sami Anan miscalculated many of his moves and that was the main reason for his downfall. “How could an army officer as experienced as Anan announce running for president before getting an official permission from the army?” she wrote. Mahmoud added that Anan made a grave mistake through not clarifying his stance on the Muslim Brotherhood from the beginning, which opened the door for speculations. “This was made worse when Muslim Brotherhood financial strategist Youssef Nada announced that the group has six conditions for supporting Anan.” Mahmoud also expressed her surprise that Anan was naïve enough to assume that the Egyptian people would favor him over Sisi.
“If the two are ex-army generals, then of course they will choose the one who is already in power and who has for them proven that he is capable of ruling, hence obviously stronger.” According to Mahmoud, another miscalculation is associated with Anan’s supporters or rather Sisi’s opponents. “Many people who supported Anan did so only to oppose Sisi and without even knowing what his platform is, which made it clear that Anan’s camp is detached from the common aspirations of the Egyptian people.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International issued a statement condemning Anan’s arrest as a violation of political rights and alleging that targeting potential presidential candidates has become a common practice by the Egyptian authorities.
“Sami Anan is among a growing number of candidates arrested or convicted on trumped up charges by the Egyptian authorities shortly after announcing their candidacy for the March 2018 presidential elections.” The statement referred to former army colonel Ahmed Konsowa, sentenced to six months in jails for violating military laws, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik, deported from the UAE and detained upon arrival in Egypt, and leftist lawyer Khaled Ali, tried for violation of public decency.