The former presidential runner-up Ahmed Shafiq weighed in on the latest political controversies, poking criticism at the government and regaining some momentum after having been away in the UAE for almost four years, removed from actively taking part in the Egyptian political scene.
Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister issued a statement late on Monday highlighting a rise of “bad incidents”, specifically mentioning the “post-Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dame (GERD) water disaster and sudden collapse in traditionally prominent relations with the friendly Italian people”.
The statement culminated in censure over the recent dispute over the two Red Sea islands, Sanafir and Tiran, over which the government relinquished authority to Saudi Arabia.
Egypt’s cabinet announced Saturday that Sanafir and Tiran will now fall under the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia, after revising the demarcation of maritime borders. The announcement came during Saudi King Salman bin Abdel Aziz Al-Saud’s visit to Cairo.
The demarcation of maritime borders and the transition of authority over the two islands sparked widespread public debate in Egypt over their rightful ownership.
Across social media platforms, regime supporters have attempted to prove the ownership of both islands to Saudi Arabia in order to support the cabinet’s decision, while the opposition, rights groups, and activists have rejected the decision, stating that both islands are part of Egypt’s sovereign borders.
They described the decision as “treason”, with many claiming the land was “sold” in return for Saudi investments, using a hashtag that translates to “the land was sold” to promote their stance.
Shafiq welcomed the visit and praised Salman, while he questioned the way the government dealt with its recent political crisis.
“Is it lack of experience and weakness of management? Is it unfitting choices of those who manage crises? Is it delayed decision-making, forgetting that part of the decision is its timing? Is it the rejected monopolisation of critical decision-making, which should be shared with all the people, not just their representatives?” Shafiq questioned.
The former air force commander compared the method in which the current government handled the situation of the maritime demarcation to the Egyptian-Israeli negotiations over Sinai’s Taba. The dispute over the resort town was resolved when it was restored to the Egyptian authority after it was occupied by Israel during the 1967 war.
Shafiq joined the mounting protests against the government’s handling of the dispute, calling for the release of documentation that proves the islands belong to Saudi Arabia.
The politician left Egypt for the United Arab Emirates in June 2012. His departure came just days after the announcement of the final results in the presidential race, which saw the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi become president.
Shafiq has remained in the UAE since, amidst reports he was “persona non grata” by the Muslim Brotherhood and the regimes that followed.