The Egyptian government and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) are set to begin preparing for Egypt's upcoming presidential elections, which are set for May 2018.
On 28 July, Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail held a meeting with the ministers of justice and parliamentary affairs as well as a representative of the finance ministry to review the measures to be implemented for the NEC to supervise the elections in accordance with articles 208, 209 and 210 of the constitution, according to a cabinet statement.
"After the NEC law was approved by parliament on 21 June, it was necessary for the meeting to be held to review preparations for next year's presidential elections," said the statement.
"The NEC headquarters will be selected very soon, as well as the financial resources and administrative facilities necessary for the NEC to do its job as early as possible."
Rami Mohsen, head of the independent National Centre for Parliamentary Consultancies, told Ahram Online that "the NEC law, passed on 21 June, is yet to be ratified by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi."
"The ratification is necessary for the NEC to do its job very soon, as the constitution (Article 230) states that the NEC should begin preparing for the presidential polls as early as possible," said Mohsen.
Mohsen said that the NEC's board will be headed by the Chairman of the Court of Cassation and include senior judges affiliated with the Court of Cassation, the Court of Appeals, the State Council, the State Cases Authority and the Administrative Prosecution Authority.
"Board members will be selected by the Higher Council for Judges and endorsed by the president," said Mohsen, adding that "this step should be completed as soon as possible so as to prepare for the polls very early."
Informed sources told Ahram Online that the ministers of justice and parliamentary affairs began meeting at the end of last week to discuss all the logistical and financial support necessary for the NEC to do its job as soon as President El-Sisi ratifies the NEC law.
A number of political parties announced last week that they would support El-Sisi for a second term in office, though El-Sisi has not yet given a definite answer on whether he would run for a second four-year term.
On 25 July at the Fourth National Conference, El-Sisi said that the "presidential elections in Egypt in 2018 will be very important," and urged the public to go out and vote.
"Voting day will be the day on which we decide the future of Egypt," El-Sisi said.
"My message to all Egyptians is that even if you have to stand in line for long hours you should cast your vote. This sends the world a message that you have freely exercised your will."
El-Sisi's comments have been interpreted by some political parties as confirmation that he would stand for elections.
The Free Egyptians Party (FEP), the largest party in parliament with 65 MPs, said in a statement on 27 July that if El-Sisi runs for a second term, the party would support him.
FEP head Essam Khalil said in a statement that the party had organised a celebration near the Giza Pyramids to mark "the fourth anniversary of the people's decision on 26 July 2013 to give El-Sisi a popular mandate to confront terrorism."
"It was on that day the majority of Egyptians chose El-Sisi to save Egypt from extremists."
Khalil said that after three years in office, El-Sisi has changed Egypt's image for the future.
"A new Suez Canal was built, foreign exchange reserves in the Central Bank grew from $14 billion to $35 billion, and Egypt escaped the spectre of bankruptcy."
The FEP also said in a statement on 27 July that "the party wants El-Sisi to stay in office for four more years to consolidate the achievements on national security level and to see his economic reforms pay off."
In a statement issued on 29 July, the Wafd Party – the oldest party in Egypt – also announced it was backing El-Sisi for a second term.
Wafd party head El-Sayed El-Badawi told reporters the party would not be fielding a candidate in the presidential elections.
"The Wafd Party promotes the nation's interest and we support El-Sisi, with the stipulation that he maintains a firm stand against Islamist parties in his second term. I also hope President El-Sisi will promote civil society in terms of showing greater respect for human rights, press freedoms and opening up the political arena."
Several small political parties – the Conference Party, the Free Constitutional Party, the Conservatives Party, the Guardians of the Future, the Freedom Party and the Future of a Nation – have also announced their support for El-Sisi.
Ashraf Rashad, head of the Future of a Nation party – told Al-Ahram on 28 July that "El-Sisi is the best option for the coming period and we support his re-election very strongly."
Left-leaning political parties have not stated whether they would be fielding candidates in the elections.
The Tagammu Party, which supports El-Sisi's anti-political Islam programme, has reservations about his IMF-inspired economic reforms.
Rifaat El-Saeed, the former head of El-Tagammu, said in a press interview that the IMF-backed policies, which have been implemented since November, have left millions of Egyptians under the poverty line. El-Saeed also described Prime Minister Ismail as Egypt's "worst prime minister."
However, El-Saeed praised El-Sisi's cooperation with three Arab Gulf countries – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – for cutting diplomatic relations with "the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Qatar."
He also praised El-Sisi's open dialogues with young people in several national youth conferences.
The Karama Party and the Popular Socialist Alliance are considering how best to agree on a single consensus candidate in next year's elections.
Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi told journalists last May that "there should be one opposition candidate against El-Sisi next year…more than one will split the vote and guarantee that El-Sisi is re-elected."
Karama Party secretary-general Mohamed Bassiouny said in a press interview last week that the Democratic Current Alliance, which includes the Dostour Party, the Popular Socialist Alliance Party, and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, are coordinating to select an opposition candidate.