At least two thousand supporters gathered outside the Asad Ibn Al-Furat Mosque in Cairo's Dokki district on Friday to accompany Salafist presidential hopeful Hazem Abu-Ismail in a march to the headquarters of Egypt's Higher Presidential Elections Commission (HPEC), where he will officially submit his candidacy application.
Immediately after Friday prayers, Abu-Ismail campaigners and supporters formed human chains on both sides of Tahrir Street, located adjacent to the mosque in which Abu-Ismail performed Friday prayers before setting out for the march.
Dozens of private cars lined up on the street to take part in the rally before heading out to HPEC headquarters in Cairo's Masr El-Gedida district. The cars were adorned with Abu-Ismail posters, while supporters wore t-shirts bearing his image.
Abu-Ismail campaign officials recently announced that they had managed to gather 100,000 citizens' signatures in support of the Salafist preacher's candidacy, along with 60 signatures from elected MPs. According to the rules governing presidential elections, would-be candidates need only 30,000 citizens' signatures and support from only 30 elected MPs.
A large truck arrived in front of the mosque carrying the signature petitions to be delivered to the HPEC. Buses also arrived, ferrying supporters in from locales outside Cairo.
"I'm not an Islamist; I used to support ElBaradei before he withdrew from the race," said Ahmed Hussein, a young teacher's assistant and rally participant. "But now I believe Abu-Ismail is the only candidate with the ability to realise genuine change. In the next presidential election, I'll vote for a liberal candidate, but I believe Abu-Ismail will not have the time or the means to enact ultraconservative religious laws, such as imposing the veil on women."
To date, only two presidential candidacy applications have been officially approved by the HPEC: that of former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, and that of ex-Muslim Brotherhood figure Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh.
The deadline for presenting candidacy applications has been set by the HPEC for 8 April.
(Additional reporting by Nada Rashwan)