File Photo: Ahmed Shafiq (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Egypt's former prime minister and presidential hopeful Ahmed Shafiq said on Wednesday that Emirati authorities have barred him from leaving the country hours after he announced he would run for the Egyptian presidency in the upcoming 2018 elections.
"I was surprised that I was banned from leaving the brotherly nation of the United Arab Emirates, for reasons I do not understand," Shafiq said in a brief video message late on Wednesday.
"I was intending to carry out a tour among members of the Egyptian community abroad before returning to my homeland in the next few days," he added.
He thanked the UAE for its hospitality but said he rejects "interfering in [his] country's affairs" by hindering him from running in the elections, which are scheduled to be held between March and April 2018.
The UAE, Shafiq's current country of residence and a close ally of Egypt’s, was quick to dismiss the claims.
"The UAE affirms there is no obstacle to Shafiq's departure from the country," Anwar Gargash, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on his official Twitter account.
Gargash said his country regrets Shafiq's claims especially after it "offered him all facilitation and generous hospitality," granting him refuge in the Emirates despite “strong reservations over some of his positions" after he fled Egypt in 2012.
Shafiq's party, the Egyptian Patriotic Movement, said in a statement that the video, which was first broadcast by the Al-Jazeera channel, was leaked with the aim of "incitement against him" after he announced his candidacy, describing the channel as "hostile towards Egypt" and serving a special agenda.
Shafiq said in a video statement on his Twitter account Wednesday that his decision to run in the election comes as "the country is currently facing many problems in all aspects of life," while highlighting his experience in the Egyptian air force.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who was elected president by a landslide in 2014, has not confirmed whether he will run for a second term in the upcoming elections. He has stated, however, that he respects the country's constitutional limit of two four-year terms on the presidency.
Shafiq is the second person to announce intentions to run for president in 2018. His announcement follows that of human rights lawyer and former 2012 presidential candidate Khaled Ali who declared his own intended candidacy earlier this month.
The 76-year-old Shafiq served as aviation minister under former President Hosni Mubarak and briefly as prime minister during the 2011 uprising before being replaced in February 2012.
Shafiq narrowly lost the 2012 presidential elections to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, who held the office for one year before he was ousted following nationwide protests against his rule.
Shortly after the election, Shafiq claimed that the vote was rigged and travelled to the UAE, citing "safety concerns."
While in the UAE, Shafiq was tried in absentia on a number of corruption charges, but was either acquitted or had charges against him dropped.