Egypt opposition say they face foul play over presidential candidate endorsements

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian opposition parties said on Wednesday that people trying to endorse candidates hoping to stand against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in an election in December had been repeatedly obstructed from doing so.

Potențial candidates must secure backing of at least 25,000 members of the public from 15 different governorates, or 20 members of parliament, and register their candidacy by Oct. 14 for the Dec. 10-12 presidential poll.

But those trying to submit endorsements for candidates other than Sisi had found public notary offices inaccessible and protected by pro-government activists or thugs, said members of the Civil Democratic Movement (CDM), which groups together some of Egypt’s fragmented opposition.

Egypt’s National Election Authority said it has investigated complaints and that such allegations are baseless. It says it has instructed notary offices to extend their hours to allow people to register.

At a press conference in Cairo, the CDM presented people who said they had faced problems registering signatures.

One, Rania el-Sheikh, said when she tried to register support for former member of parliament Ahmed el-Tantawy, the most prominent figure intending to stand against Sisi, thugs provoked a scuffle at the notary’s office and she had her hair pulled by a woman while a male colleague was hit on the shoulder.

Elsewhere, people were turned away, she said. “In every place public employees have pre-determined reasons: the system is down, the internet isn’t working, the power is cut, your ID card isn’t showing for us.”

Magdy Hamdan, a Conservative Party official, said he was blocked from submitting his endorsement at the first notary’s office, and that when he tried to enter a second a group of men brought in some rubbish collectors and beggars then spraying them – and him – with water.

Tantawi’s campaign has also complained that people trying to register support for him have been blocked and that more than 80 of his supporters have been detained. Asked for comment, Egypt’s state information service referred to statements by the election authority denying any violations.

Sisi, who has overseen a far-reaching crackdown on dissent, is widely expected to secure a third term in December.

When he officially announced his candidacy earlier this week he encouraged people to take part in the election and choose which candidate to back as they see fit.

(Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by David Gregorio)