Abdel Fatah al-Sisi favourite in Egyptian election as nominations close

Interim government paints election as important step towards democracy but opponents have concerns about integrity of vote

Sisi supporters

Abdel Fatah al-Sisi supporters in Cairo. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Abdel Fatah al-Sisi moved one step closer to Egypt‘s presidency on Sunday as nominations closed, leaving the retired army chief and the leftist Hamdeen Sabahi as the only two high-profile candidates in the race.

Sisi is widely expected to easily win the election, which will take place on 26-27 May. He has more support than any other candidate, as well as an explicit mandate from the army, and he receives favourable coverage from most state and private media.

Egypt’s interim government, installed by Sisi last July, has portrayed the presidential race as a sign that the country is back on the road to democracy. “It is a very important step,” Egypt’s foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy, told the Guardian, calling the electoral process “extremely free and fair”.

“Once we get it done, we will then move into the parliamentary elections which will help us finish the roadmap [to democracy] – and we look forward to rebuilding our future,” Fahmy said.

But among rights activists and opposition politicians there are concerns about the integrity of the poll. By the most conservative estimate at least 16,000 mainly Islamist dissidents have been arrested in an ongoing crackdown on dissent. At least three high-profile candidates from the 2012 presidential campaign have boycotted the race, complaining about the absence of free expression in Egypt, while the ousted president Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood was banned by court order this week from taking part.

A late challenger – the flamboyant football-club chairman Mortada Mansour – dropped out on Saturday citing a divine vision, after a brief and bizarre campaign in which he promised to rip up the Camp David accords and to force non-believers to practise atheism in their bathrooms.

Khaled Ali, a labour lawyer, the Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, and Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, all dropped out in recent weeks – with Aboul Fotouh highlighting the impossibility of campaigning in an environment where opposition is portrayed as treason.

Dozens of activists campaigning against Egypt’s new constitution in January were arrested while putting up campaign posters, and colleagues complained they were ignored by most media networks. Withdrawn candidates said they feared a similar scenario in the presidential poll.

When Sisi announced his intention to run for office last month, state television gave him a prime-time television slot to make a speech directly to camera. It was a privilege not afforded to Sabahi, who was allowed only a short state-made documentary about his career – a taste of what may be to come, analysts said.

“If we are talking about these elections really being fair and free, all the candidates should have access to equal representation within the media,” said HA Hellyer, Egypt analyst at the Royal United Services Institute. “And I just don’t think that’s going to happen unless things drastically change in the next four or five weeks.”

On Saturday a privately-owned channel announced that it would not air any shows by Egypt’s best-known political satirist Bassem Youssef, a prominent Sisi critic, until after the election – in order “to avoid influencing Egyptian voters’ orientation”.


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Egyptian presidential candidate reportedly vows to put Sisi on trial

Mideast Egypt Presidential Election

Egyptian presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi’s campaign denied remarks attributed to him in an audio recording in which a person with a voice that sounds like his says he would put former army chief Abdel Fattah Sisi on trial for the deaths of hundreds of protesters. (Ahmed Gomaa / Associated Press / April 22, 2014)

CAIRO — The only candidate running for president against Egypt’s former military chief, Abdel Fattah Sisi, has reportedly said that if elected he would put Sisi on trial in connection with the deaths of hundreds of protesters.

“I don’t treat Sisi as a criminal, but I plan to bring him to court …. When I do this, I aim to heal wounds without opening up new confrontations,” candidate Hamdeen Sabahi was quoted as saying by the Egyptian news outlet Youm7 on Friday.

Sabahi’s campaign denied the comments were his. But Youm7 posted an audio recording of a voice that sounded much like the candidate. According to Youm7, Sabahi was responding to a question over transitional justice in case he wins the presidency. He also said anyone proven responsible for demonstrators’ deaths since the 2011 uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak should be held accountable.


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Al Jazeera America

Leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi to challenge Sisi in Egypt election

Lobna Tarek/El Shorouk/AP

Sabahi has received several political endorsements but his chances of beating the powerful Sisi are slight

Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi officially submitted his bid Saturday to run for Egypt’s presidency, making him the second candidate for next month’s election alongside former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who is widely expected to win.

The election is due to take place on May 26-27.

Sabahi, who heads a political alliance called the Popular Current, created after the 2012 presidential elections, was a member of parliament during ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s years in office and came third in the election won by Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2012.

Sabahi submitted the required documents to the presidential election committee after gathering 31,100 signatures. The required number is 25,000.

A third candidate, controversial figure Mortada Mansour, announced Saturday that he would not run in the upcoming elections, after having declared his candidacy less than a week ago, Egyptian media reported.


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Egypt presidential candidate bows out, predicts Sisi victory

Egypt presidential candidate bows out, predicts Sisi victory

CAIRO — An Egyptian lawyer and TV personality who declared days ago that he was running for president pulled out of the race Saturday, and state media quoted him as saying he had received a sign from God that victory belonged to former army chief Abdel Fattah Sisi.

Mortada Mansour, known for his outspoken style and sometimes eccentric views, also took a parting swipe at the only Sisi opponent left in the race, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, the Ahram website reported.

Mansour, who had announced his candidacy last weekend, has called for the abrogation of the Camp David accords that led to peace between Egypt and Israel, has threatened to go to war with Ethiopia over water rights, and has urged a ban on Facebook and Twitter.

Sisi, leader of the popularly supported military coup that ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi nearly 10 months ago, is heavily favored to win the presidential poll, to be held May 26 and 27.


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