Rights groups unanimously call Egypt's upcoming presidential vote a 'farce'
Over a dozen international and regional rights groups said on Tuesday that next month's presidential election in Egypt does not meet the "minimum requirements" for a fair and free vote and called on Cairo's Western allies to denounce the "farcical" election.
The incumbent, general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, is virtually certain to win the March vote, his only challenger an obscure politician and one of his most ardent supporters.
Moussa Mustafa Moussa entered the race in the eleventh hour, sparing el-Sissi and his government the deeper embarrassment of a one-candidate election.
Meanwhile, leaders of opposition parties who called for a boycott of the vote are being investigated on allegations they are seeking to destabilize the country.
The 14 rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists, said el-Sissi's government has "suppressed freedoms, arrested potential candidates and rounded up their supporters."
El-Sissi has since 2013 overseen a wide crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of protesters and also scores of activists behind the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The crackdown followed the July 2013 ouster by the military, then led by el-Sissi, of President Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader whose one-year rule proved to be divisive.
"The Egyptian government has trampled over even the minimum requirements for free and fair elections for the planned March 26-28 vote," the 14 groups said in a statement.
"Seven years after Egypt's 2011 uprising, the government has made a mockery of the basic rights for which protesters fought," it added.
In a related development, Egypt's military said late Monday that it would take action to safeguard its "honor and dignity" following incendiary comments by the country's former top anti-graft official.