Middle East

Former Egyptian premier Shafiq says intends to run in 2018 election

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Former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force pilot and ex-presidential candidate, told Reuters on Wednesday he intended to run in the presidential election early next year, saying he would return to Egypt in the “coming days”.

In a video declaration sent to Reuters and a telephone statement, Shafiq said he would run in the election planned for around April, when President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is widely expected to seek a second term.

“I‘m honored to announce my will to run in the upcoming presidential elections in Egypt as a choice to lead the country for the next four years,” he said in the statement from the United Arab Emirates.

Shafiq would be one of the few candidates who have announced their intentions for 2018.

Taking pride in his strong ties with the military and frequently speaking of his admiration for his mentor Mubarak, he squared off against the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi in Egypt’s first free and fair presidential election in 2012.

Shafiq left Egypt after he lost to Morsi – who was himself ousted by the military in 2013 – and faced the prospect of several corruption trials.

But neither Morsi's fall nor the ascension of former military man Sisi to the presidency persuaded Shafiq to return and face trial.

He instead formed a political party and led it from the UAE. The party failed to make significant gains during a 2015 parliamentary election.

Mubarak's man

Born in 1941 in Cairo, Shafiq graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1961. He later completed a master's degree in military sciences and a PhD in military strategy.

He fought in three wars including the 1973 Arab-Israeli war in which he was a senior fighter pilot under Hosni Mubarak's command. He is said to have downed two Israeli airplanes.

Shafiq served as commander of the Egyptian air force from 1996 to 2002 and then went on to become the country's first civil aviation minister, earning a reputation for administrative competence and efficiency.

It was widely believed that Mubarak helped set his career path, even creating the post of civil aviation minister to suit his old comrade and friend.

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His restructuring of the state-owned airline, EgyptAir, made it into a competitive business. He also renovated the nation's airports, giving a boost to the important tourism industry.

In media interviews, Shafiq, 70, has portrayed himself as the only presidential contender who combines civilian experience with knowledge of the military, which is overseeing the democratic transition.

He has argued that he can ensure a successful handover of power.

"You cannot suddenly bring a civilian man with no relation or knowledge of military life and make him a president and supreme commander of the armed forces," he told the Reuters news agency earlier this year.

He has promised he will change the way the army is treated by the state, making it pay taxes on profit it gets from its wide range of businesses.

After he was selected to be prime minister on 29 January 2011 during the last days of the Mubarak presidency, Shafiq became known as "the man in the blue jumper" or "Mubarak's man" and was made the butt of jokes.

His relationship with the protesters in Tahrir Square worsened as he ignored their demands and offered to send them sweets. He suggested their campsite should simply be converted into a speaker's corner as found in London's Hyde Park.

As pressure mounted on the military, Shafiq stayed in his post for just three weeks after the end of the revolution.

He resigned on 3 March 2011, a day after appearing in a talk-show on ONTV.

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