Egypt is back on the road to a military dictatorship, according to a leaked recording in which former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik revealed an upcoming election will be rigged for army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Shafik pulled himself out of the running for president. "I know very well they will fix all the ballot boxes. I have taken myself out of this loop because the election is going to be a farce," said the senior politician in a recording published by Al Jazeera on Thursday.
Last Tuesday, Sisi made his clearest hints yet that he will run in the elections, expected to be held in mid-April, saying he could "not turn his back on calls by the majority of Egyptians for him to run for president."
"Of course whether other candidates withdraw will depend on the nomination of Sisi. I said if he’s going to run in the presidential election I will not run, but I will get my papers ready (and) if he is going to run I will not submit them," stated Shafik.
After a brief January 2011 stint as prime minister before resigning during the mounting protests against dictator Hosni Mubarak, Shafik narrowly lost in the 2011 elections against former President Mohammed Morsi, who was deposed by Sisi last July.
Egypt appears to be returning to the days of Mubarak with Sisi filling the role of military strong-man, as Shafik reports "they will fix everything for him…this is going to be a comedy show."
Other candidates pulling out as well
Sami Anan, former Chief of Staff of Egypt's military, similarly announced Thursday he would withdraw from the elections, saying his decision was "rooted in the nation's highest interests," and came "out of the realization of the dangers facing it."
Earlier in the week, Anan reportedly claimed to have survived an assassination attempt. The Ministry of Interior brushed off the claim, calling it "mere election publicity."
Given the withdrawals from the race, if Sisi were to run the only candidate of any significance opposing him would reportedly be left-wing politician Hamdeen Sabahi.
Egypt raising animosity towards Israel and Hamas?
The signs of Egypt's return to a military-dictated past come amid rising concerns over the country's stance towards its neighbor Israel.
Just last Tuesday a home-made bomb exploded in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, which security sources claim targeted a police car parked near the embassy, rather than the embassy itself.
After Mubarak was ousted in 2011, the Israeli embassy came under attack by an angry mob which tore down the barrier around the embassy and broke in, proceeding to light parts of the embassy on fire and throw documents out the windows.
Egypt has recently completed a $2 billion arms deal with Russia. The Kuwaiti Al Rei newspaper reported last November that the deal is designed to specifically enable Egypt to at least achieve parity with the IDF.
The Nile state has also been increasingly hostile towards the Hamas terror group running Gaza, banning the organization last Tuesday, and placing Gaza under effective siege by cutting off the illegal smuggling tunnels and clamping down on border crossings.