Ex-army chief El-Sisi ahead of sole competitor Sabahi before presidential race

Ahram Online, Monday 21 Apr 2014

Egypt's electoral commission declares that only former army chief El-Sisi - with 189,000 backing signatures - and leftist politician Sabahi - with 31,555 - will face-off in next month's presidential poll

Egypt's Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) said on Sunday only two presidential hopefuls -- one of whom is the ex-army chief who led the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi -- are to run in next month's presidential poll.

Former defence minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi will contest for the country's top post in the May 26-27 vote, with El-Sisi widely believed to be the frontrunner.

El-Sisi has become a cult figure since he led Morsi's ouster last summer amid massive nationwide protests against the latter's year in office. His electoral victory is deemed a foregone conclusion by scores of Egyptians who regard him as the only man capable of restoring stability after more than three years of turmoil since the 2011 uprising.

His electoral campaign has submitted 188,930 signatures backing his candidacy to the commission organising the vote, SEC secretary-general Abdel-Aziz Salman told a news conference hours after the nomination deadline expired on Sunday.

Sabahi, who came third in the 2012 presidential elections won by Morsi, has gathered 31,555 signatures, Salman added. Under Egyptian law, a presidential hopeful is required to secure 25,000 signatures from at least 15 of the nation's 27 governorates to be eligible to stand for the presidency.

The commission has so far granted six international civil society groups approval to monitor the elections and is looking into requests by another 120, the official added.

The European Union will supervise the vote under an agreement reached in Cairo between EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy almost 10 days ago.

The forthcoming presidential elections manifestly lacks contender diversity, unlike the 2012 poll when13 rivals vied in a heated race which brought Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood to power.

As a court order last week banned the Brotherhood from running in the upcoming elections, this year's elections will see no Islamist candidate.

The move is part of a sustained crackdown waged by authorities against the Brotherhood, once Egypt's largest and best organised political group -- which won every election since the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 -- now blacklisted as a "terrorist organisation."

Hundreds of Islamists have been killed in the clampdown campaign and thousands others thrown behind bars.

A mounting Islamist insurgency which gathered pace since Morsi's removal in July has killed nearly 500, mostly policemen and troops.

First-round voting results will be announced on 5 June. A candidate who receives 50 percent plus 1 of valid votes is to be declared the winner without a run-off vote.

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