Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has officially declared his candidacy for a third term in the upcoming December elections, setting the stage for a political contest that has raised concerns over harassment and intimidation of opposition candidates.
Al-Sisi’s decision to seek re-election comes at a challenging time for Egypt, with the country grappling with economic woes, record inflation, a sharply devalued local currency, and allegations of political pressure against opposition contenders.
In a televised speech on Monday evening, President al-Sisi stated, “I have decided to nominate myself to continue working towards our national aspirations during a new presidential term. I call on all Egyptians to participate in this democratic process and choose, based on their patriotic conscience, the candidate they believe is worthy.”
The upcoming election is scheduled to take place from December 10 to 12, with Egyptians living abroad able to cast their votes from December 1 to 3. An estimated 65 million eligible voters are expected to participate, but as it stands, no opposition candidate poses a significant challenge to al-Sisi, who has held power since 2014 after leading the military’s removal of Egypt’s first democratically-elected President, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013.
In previous elections, President al-Sisi claimed victory with an overwhelming majority, receiving 97 percent of the vote in both 2014 and 2018. However, these elections have faced criticism for a lack of genuine competition and reports of irregularities.
Under al-Sisi’s leadership, Egypt has witnessed a crackdown on freedom of expression, resulting in the imprisonment or forced exile of numerous activists and political opponents. These actions have drawn condemnation from human rights advocates worldwide.
Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood, a once-prominent political group, has been labeled a “terrorist” organization, and Egypt’s fragmented political opposition has alleged that it is facing increased pressure in the run-up to the election.
Ahmed al-Tantawi, a former member of parliament and a potential prominent opponent to al-Sisi, has complained that citizens attempting to support his candidacy have faced obstacles in registering their endorsements. To stand for election, prospective candidates must gather 25,000 public signatures or secure the backing of 20 members of a parliament that is largely supportive of al-Sisi.
The opposition claims that citizens attempting to register their support for al-Tantawi have encountered difficulties, including being told that the registration system was not functioning, being instructed to return later, or being directed to register at different locations.
Despite these challenges, al-Tantawi, who has positioned himself as the “rule of law” candidate, remains determined, and his campaign has documented these obstacles as part of its efforts to rally supporters.
Meanwhile, under President al-Sisi’s administration, protests have been banned, and any form of dissent has been met with strict measures.
The Civil Democratic Movement, comprising several small opposition parties, has also reported violations against citizens attempting to nominate candidates to run against al-Sisi. Egypt’s National Election Authority has stated that it is investigating these complaints and has dismissed them as baseless.
As Egypt prepares for another presidential election, concerns over the state of democracy, freedom of expression, and the fairness of the electoral process continue to loom large, both domestically and internationally.
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