Egyptian rights lawyer and labour activist Khaled Ali announced on Wednesday that he no longer intends to run in the upcoming presidential elections due to what he described as an "absence of any possibilities for competition."
Ali said at a press conference on Wednesday evening that that the decision to withdraw was a "difficult and bitter" one, which he reached following consultations with campaign members and supporters.
Ali claimed that several serious violations took place during the nomination phase of the electoral process, including the theft of his nomination endorsements, adding there "was a lack of cooperation from the National Elections Authority (NEA) in sharing with Ali the total number of endorsements collected."
Ali, a former candidate in the 2012 presidential elections, also said that the nine-day timetable set for gathering the endorsements required for nomination was "unfairly short."
Hopeful candidates must receive endorsements from a minimum of 20 MPs or 25,000 citizens from at least 15 governorates, with at least 1,000 endorsements from each governorate. The timetable set to collect endorsements has been set for 20 to 29 January.
"All of these indicators show that there was prior intention to poison the process and void it of its supposedly democratic content," Ali said.
Ali had announced his intention to run in the presidential elections in late November.
Over the past few weeks, hundreds of volunteers in Ali's campaign raced to collect the 25,000 endorsements required to put the rights lawyer on the ballot in March.
Ali's campaign has not revealed the number of endorsements it was able to collect before his decision to end his candidacy.
Ali also said that a 2017 case where he was convicted of making an "obscene gesture" during a demonstration was "fabricated." Ali, who was given three months in prison in the case, is currently appealing the verdict. If his appeal is rejected, it could have disqualified him from running for president.
The rights lawyer said that former army chief-of-staff Sami Anan – whose candidacy was cut short by his recent recall on charges of violating military rules by announcing his intention to run for president while still a member of the Armed Forces as a reserve officer – would not have presented a real alternative to the current leadership.
Ali added that he hopes Anan receives a fair trial.
On Wednesday, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi submitted his candidacy documents as well as his endorsement forms to the NEA.
If only one nominee qualifies to run in the March elections, Article 26 of the presidential elections law stipulates that polls would still be held, with the sole candidate needing approval from 5 percent of eligible voters to become the country's president.