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Former Egyptian PM steps down from leading political party

Ahmed Shafiq's resignation from the party he founded comes days after tell-all interview is reportedly banned
Ahmed Shafiq's supporters in a June 2012 rally on the outskirts of Cairo (AFP)

Egypt’s former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq has announced he has resigned from his position as leader of the Egyptian Patriotic Movement, the party he founded in 2012.

“I had to resign because of the difficult and unnatural circumstances I faced while doing my job,” Shafiq, who lives in exile in the UAE, tweeted late Saturday.

The circumstances, he said, “do not allow me to offer my capabilities to serve the sons of our rising party".

Despite his resignation, Shafiq promised to expand his activities, but did not elaborate specifically on his plans or the challenging circumstances he mentioned.

Shafiq’s announcement comes days after Egyptian officials reportedly banned the airing of an interview the 73-year-old former presidential candidate gave to The Capital satellite TV channel.

Egyptian officials stopped The Black Box, a popular talkshow, from broadcasting two episodes featuring Shafiq because he disclosed in the interviews why he fled Egypt, Arabi21 reported last week.

But before the show was banned, commercials teased Shafiq’s discussions with host Abdel Rahim Ali.

In what observers considered to be messages directed at the military government in Egypt, Shafiq told Ali that he “possessed documents which could easily implicate anyone who attempts to silence those who speak up for their country,” reported Arabi21.

“I know more than the intelligence services do. It’s better if everyone keeps their mouth shut so that I do too. No one can dare tell me not to run for parliament,” he said.

Also in the commercial, Shafiq said: “A fighter does not give his enemies the chance to get rid of him,” when asked about the reason behind his stay in the UAE instead of returning to Egypt.

In May, an anonymous government official was quoted in Egypt’s Al-Shurouk newspaper telling Shafiq to forget about playing a role in the country’s politics and accusing him of seeking to destabilise the “legitimacy of elected president Sisi”.

Shafiq belongs to the same military political camp which has ruled Egypt since 1952 and to which current President Sisi is a member. The comments in the newspaper, paired with the cancelling of the TV interview, would appear to show that Sisi views Shafiq as a rival who is conspiring to undermine his presidency.

The deepening rift between Shafiq and the Sisi government has been highlighted by analysts as a possible source for a series of leaked audio tapes that have been used to implicate Sisi.

On Tuesday, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, is scheduled to visit Sisi, a meeting observers suggest may be a continuation of Egyptian attempts to seek the UAE’s support in silencing Shafiq.