A former Egyptian prime minister says he is not being allowed to leave the United Arab Emirates, the country where he has resided since 2012 after losing the Egyptian elections to Mohamed Morsi.
The reason for his travel ban is unknown, Ahmed Shafiq said in an exclusive video statement to Al Jazeera on Wednesday.
“I was surprised to know that I am prevented from leaving the UAE for reasons that I don’t understand and I am not willing to understand,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Shafiq had announced that he intended to run in the 2018 presidential elections against current President Abdel Fateh el-Sisi.
Shafiq, who also participated in the 2012 Egyptian elections, said he wanted to head back to Egypt in the coming days.
“I have announced my intention to run the upcoming presidential elections and I was planning to start a tour among the Egyptian communities living abroad before going back to Egypt in the next few days,” he said.
In the video message, Shafiq thanked the UAE for hosting him, but was also critical of the travel ban.
“I have often stated my appreciation for the UAE for hosting me,” he said.
“However, I reject any intervention in Egypt’s affairs by preventing me from participating in a constitutional right and a holy mission to serve my country. I call on the UAE leaders to order the lifting of any restrictions on my ability to travel.”
After losing the closely contested 2012 election to Mohamed Morsi, Shafiq fled to the UAE. He was placed on trial in absentia in Egypt and found guilty of corruption charges.
He was later acquitted, clearing his path for a potential return to Egypt.
Samer Shehata, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma in the US says it is unknown if Sisi is behind Shafiq’s travel ban.
“It is not clear if Sisi or the Egyptian government is behind this move,” Shehata told Al Jazeera from Norman, Oklahoma.
He said Shafiq’s inability to leave the UAE is to the advantage of Sisi and also benefits the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
“The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are among the staunchest supporters of the current Egyptian president, so they have an interest in Sisi continuing.
“They are in favour of Sisi staying in power and not in seeing [the appearance of] any potential challengers.”
Shafiq was prime minister for just over a month during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, which led to the fall of long-serving leader Hosni Mubarak.
In the 2012 elections that followed Mubarak’s removal, it was Shafiq who, although seen as a regime holdover, won enough support to almost beat Morsi.
Morsi was removed in 2013 in a coup led by Sisi, then Egypt’s defence minister.
All this time, Shafiq has remained in the UAE.
In the 2018 elections, Shafiq could again be one of the few candidates challenging Sisi. However, Shehata thinks Shafiq has got little chance of actually winning the presidential election.
“The reality is that the system is engineered so that Sisi will win. He will win another term next year”, Shehata said.