Sisi confirms candidacy for Egypt poll, opposition report obstacles

By Muhammad Al Gebaly and Farah Saafan

CAIRO (Reuters) -Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi confirmed on Monday that he will stand for a third term in office in an election in December, as opposition parties complained that people trying to register support for other candidates had faced obstacles.

“Just as I responded to the call of the Egyptians before, today I respond to their call again,” Sisi said in a closing speech for a three-day event that promoted policies under his rule at a new capital being built in the desert outside Cairo.

“We are on the cusp of our new republic, which seeks to complete the process of the state’s survival and rebuild it on the foundations of modernity and democracy,” he said.

Sisi, a former army chief who has been president since 2014, had been widely expected to run again and secure a third term after constitutional amendments four years ago that would allow him to stay in office until 2030.

In recent weeks, supporters have mounted a campaign using billboards and public messages urging him to stand in the Dec. 10-12 poll, while Egypt’s fragmented opposition says it has come under pressure.

The campaign of Ahmed al-Tantawi, a former member of parliament and the most prominent potential opponent to Sisi, has complained that citizens have been impeded when they tried to register their support for his candidacy.

Many of those showing up at public notary offices to register their support for him were told the system was not working, or ordered to come back later or register somewhere else, Mohamed Abol Deyar, Tantawi’s campaign manager, told Reuters. Some had faced harassment, attacks or abuse, he said.

The Civil Democratic Movement, which groups together some small opposition parties, also said in a statement on Sunday that there had been multiple violations against citizens trying to nominate candidates to stand against Sisi.

Egypt’s National Election Authority says it is investigating complaints and has called such allegations baseless. Prospective candidates need 25,000 public signatures or the support of 20 members of a heavily pro-Sisi parliament to stand.

Sisi came to power after leading the ousting of democratically elected Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. He was announced winner of presidential elections in 2014 and 2018 with 97% of the vote.

His rule has been marked by a widespread crackdown on dissent during which activists say tens of thousands have been jailed. The Muslim Brotherhood, historically by far Egypt’s strongest opposition force, has been outlawed, its leaders jailed or in exile.

Sisi and his backers say the measures were needed to stabilise Egypt after the turmoil caused by the country’s 2011 “Arab Spring” popular uprising.

The election comes as Egypt is struggling with an economic crisis that has seen record inflation and a chronic foreign currency shortage.

(Reporting by Muhammad Al Gebaly and Farah Saafan; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)