A former Egyptian presidential candidate close to the country's youth movements said Sunday he would not take part in upcoming presidential elections, calling them a "farce" stacked in favor of Egypt's powerful military chief Al Arabiya reported.
Khaled Ali, an active labor rights campaigner during the time of Hosni Mubarak, said the expected April election favors only one candidate. While not calling out by name powerful military chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who is widely expected to run and win easily, Ali's comments were aimed at the defense minister.
Ali also said state institutions and the media are all geared toward el-Sisi's expected candidacy - undermining the chances of a fair competition with any other candidate.
"Stop the puppet theater that you have opened," Ali told journalists. "We are not against the candidacy of any former military leader, the military which we respect. ... But stay away from the army for a year, and let the media and the people treat you as a human, one that acts like humans who can make mistakes and can do right and be criticized."
The date for the elections has not been set, but is expected in April. It comes after el-Sisi led the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Mursi, the country's first freely elected leader, in July. Since then, authorities have cracked down on Mursi supporters, largely Islamists, who demand he be reinstated.
But the dragnet has widened to include many of the youth groups who first rose up against Mubarak and then Mursi, largely secularists now critical of the military-backed authorities. Amid the polarized political atmosphere, violence has also picked up as militants increasingly target police officers and military forces. That's seen the military-backed interim government widen its campaign against terrorism and increased fear among the public of continued instability.
Ali rose to prominence among mostly leftist youth group that spearheaded the campaign against Mubarak. However, he came in seventh in the 2012 election, garnering only 0.6 percent of the 23 million votes cast.
In his comments Sunday, Ali also criticized Egypt's current government for detaining opposition members and silencing dissenting views.
"Our demands are not against the military, they are against your personal greed for power and not against the military," Ali said.