File photo: Former Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq (Photo: AP)
Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafiq has responded to an audio leak in which he criticised an anticipated presidential bid by army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.
He said his comments had been taken out of context and he had been speaking when speculation first emerged about an El-Sisi candidacy.
He did not say when or where the comments were made.
In the recording, Shafiq described the military's backing for an El-Sisi candidacy as ignorant and amateurish, and criticised El-Sisi for saying he would stand if the people and the army demanded it.
The army issued a statement in January giving El-Sisi the green light to resign from his military post and run for president.
The way the army backed El-Sisi's candidacy displayed a "strange lack of experience," Shafiq said in the recording.
In a statement on Thursday, Shafiq insisted the military should not play a political role but said it had realised its mistake and had corrected it – without elaborating how – a move he said Egyptians had accepted.
Fixing the ballot
In the second half of the recording, which was published by the pro-Muslim Brotherhood website Rassd, Shafiq said the presidential vote would be rigged in El-Sisi's favour, so he had decided not to run.
He said the process would be "farcical" and fixed like the 2012 presidential election in which he finished second to Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Shafiq ridiculed anyone planning to run against El-Sisi, because "the state will work in [El-Sisi's] favour."
He has been living in the UAE since shortly after the election runoff.
In his response on Thursday, Shafiq said he trusted the army to guarantee a transparent and democratic election, but the feeling of interference in favour of one candidate remained.
He cited media support for "a certain candidate" and said this "phenomenon" must be dealt with.
Shafiq nevertheless concluded his statement by expressing support for El-Sisi.
"A multiplicity of patriotic nominees and the split of votes between them is a danger that threatens our road to reform. This drives me time and again to call for rallying behind the candidate with the best chance of winning."
El-Sisi has not formally announced his candidacy despite months of hints and speculation.