Egyptian presidential contender Hamdeen Sabahi -- who faces a Herculean challenge against former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi -- has stated that he wouldl not withdraw from the elections despite the doubts cast on its credibility by a surprise measure by the country's electoral commission to add a third day to the voting process.
The late Tuesday decision to extend the originally planned two-day vote until Wednesday came amid continuous reports of unexpectedly low voter turnout. Egypt's Presidential Elections Commission (PEC) said the extension was made in response to popular calls for greater opportunities.
Both presidential candidates' official campaigns had expressed clear opposition to the decision, as declared by their respective representatives to the PEC, which rejected their objections and upheld the third voting day.
Calls also emerged from numerous Sabahi backers beseeching him to pull out of the election.
In a statement by Sabahi sent by his campaign to Ahram Online in the early hours of Wednesday, the leftist candidate said that his sense of "duty and responsibility" towards the country compels him to stay in the race.
Addressing the Egyptian public, the country's youth and his campaign team, Sabahi said in the statement that he would not withdraw "Because we believe in our right to forge a democratic path to obtain the Egyptians' rights to democracy in the face of tyranny; to prove our ability to confront those seeking a return to old policies; and to enshrine the value of participation in the face of practices we know will recur in various upcoming battles."
Slamming the vote as "a seemingly non-democratic process that lacks a minimum amount of freedom of expression," Sabahi said all of his campaign representatives will be withdrawn from polling stations on Wednesday due to the authorities' inaction towards violations against them, the risks they are subjected to, and the neglect with which were met the numerous complaints they filed.
The Dostour Party, which backs the Nasserist candidate, stated that it too would withdraw its representatives from a number of polling stations and refrain from monitoring the Wednesday vote, in protest to the "lack of transparency", especially after the PEC's last surprise decision to extend the vote by one more day, according to state news agency MENA.
Sabahi said his campaign was subjected to a large spectrum of violations and abuses, including security forces banning its representatives from entering polling stations and expelling others in the process of monitoring the vote. Others yet were assaulted, he said, arrested, referred to military investigation, or obstructed from filing official reports of their complaints.
The statement added that several cases of mass voting and ballot rigging were identified in different parts of the Daqahliya, Sohag, Aswan and Damietta governorates, as well as a broad range of "propaganda and intimidation in front of polling stations and harassment of public figures while voting...for their [announced] support to us," the statement added.
Sabahi, the veteran opposition figure who came third in the 2012 elections, affirmed however that staying in the race was the only way out.
"In order to seize our rights, there is no alternative but to participate, confront, expose and defeat such practices, not succumb to them," Sabahi added, holding the PEC responsible for the "integrity and transparency" of the vote.