Egypt plants hundreds of informants to spy on presidential campaign of Ahmed Tantawi

Egypt plants hundreds of informants to spy on presidential campaign of Ahmed Tantawi
Arguably the strongest challenger to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, Tantawi has been targeted by security authorities ever since he declared his intention to run for the country’s most influential post.
3 min read
Egypt - Cairo
27 September, 2023
Egypt's presidential election is due to take place in December 2023 []]

Egyptian authorities have planted informants among the volunteers of presidential hopeful Ahmed Tantawi, a well-placed source told The New Arab, while campaign venues nationwide will be under strict surveillance ahead of a presidential election unlikely to be neither fair nor free and likely to produce a new term for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The source in the State Security Agency, told The New Arab, on condition of anonymity, that hundreds of informants posing as volunteers for the Tantawi campaign have been tasked with inserting "bogus endorsements" in a bid to "incriminate" the former MP in "faking his way into the presidential candidacy." 

"Surveillance cameras and microphones have also been planted in most of the venues of the campaigns across the country to provide an audiovisual feed of the activities undergoing there around the clock," the source told TNA.

"Other informants have been assigned to be present during working hours inside the state registry offices all over Egypt to harass Tantawi’s supporters and hinder any attempts of officially endorsing him."

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The Egyptian constitution stipulates that presidential candidates must secure endorsements from either 20 MPs or 25,000 registered voters in at least 15 provinces, with a minimum of 1,000 endorsements from each province.

Egyptians can apply for presidential candidacy from 5 to 14 October 2023 while the vote will take place two months later in December.

On Tuesday evening, Tantawi suspended his presidential campaign for two days, after his supporters reportedly failed to officially endorse his candidacy amid a security crackdown targeting his campaign.

In almost an hour-long live Facebook video, Tantawi said that over the previous two days, his supporters managed to secure only two official endorsements, though the campaign members are over 23,000, while other unregistered ones exceed this number.

Until Tuesday, a total of 73 of Tantawi’s presidential campaign members, including four lawyers, have been targeted by the State Security Agency and the State Security Prosecution in almost half of the Egyptian provinces, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a local prominent rights group.

The reason why Tantawi froze the activities of his campaign specifically for two days was unclear as he remained unreachable for comment by the time of publication. 

Arguably the strongest challenger ahead of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Tantawi has been targeted by security authorities ever since he declared his intention to run for the country’s top post.

Most recently, the Toronto-based Citizen Lab unveiled that the former MP’s mobile phone had been hacked several times in recent months via Predator, a European spyware made by Cytrox.

Tantawi’s iPhone appeared to have been targeted between May and September this year and was potentially hacked at other times, according to the Citizen Lab report.

Previous presidential elections held since Sisi's 2013 military coup have given improbable majorities for Sisi and were marked by the arrest of rival candidates.

While Sisi has not publicly announced his intention to run for a third term, several political parties and public figures have voiced their support for his nomination, despite constant socioeconomic mismanagement and the worst crackdown on human rights in decades.

Several public figures and politicians, on the other hand, have supported Tantawi including high-profile political analyst and Cairo University professor of political science Hassan Nafaa and politician and ex-presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi.

On Monday, the Egyptian authorities brought forward the date of the election amid reports the move is linked to postponing a tough IMF deal whose conditions include unpopular moves such as further devaluating the deteriorating currency. These would be left until after the election when the political shock from painful economic reforms could be better absorbed by the regime.