President Sisi’s last real opponent drops out of Egypt election race
Posted On July 30, 2020
Egypt is heading towards elections with only President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s name on the ballot after his last real challenger dropped out of the race on Wednesday night.
One by one political figures who have stepped forward to oppose Mr Sisi have been arrested or intimidated out of the race and on Wednesday the only candidate still standing, labour lawyer Khaled Ali, said he too was withdrawing.
"The people’s confidence in the possibility of turning the election into an opportunity for a new beginning is unfortunately over,” Mr Ali told his supporters.
“Today, we announce our decision that we will not run this race and we will not go forward with our nomination papers in a context where the purpose was exhausted before it began. ”
Mr Ali dropped out one day after the arrest of Sami Anan, a former senior army general who was seen as a potential heavyweight opponent for Mr Sisi.
Mr Anan was dragged from his car by armed men on Tuesday morning and taken before a military court for allegedly violating army rules about entering politics. He has not been seen since.
With both Mr Ali and Mr Anan out of the race, it appears unlikely that anyone except Mr Sisi will qualify to be on the ballot in the March presidential election.
A number of minor figures have said they are running but none seem to be making a serious effort to gather the 25,000 signatures needed by next week to qualify for the election.
The signatures for Mr Sisi’s nomination were delivered to the Egyptian election commission in central Cairo on Wednesday morning, where heavily armed soldiers in masks watched as they were carried inside the commission headquarters.
A ballot paper with only Mr Sisi’s name on it would be a bleak symbol of the retreat of democracy in Egypt since the heady days of the 2011 revolution which overthrew the regime of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.
“There’s no political life anymore. It’s dead,” Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat, the nephew of the assassinated Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat, told The Telegraph.
The younger Mr Sadat, a former MP, had planned to run against Mr Sisi but dropped out last week, saying he feared what might happen to his campaign staff if he ran against the president.
“The logic says the regime should allow two or three or four people to run against Sisi to make it look legitimate. But it seems like they don’t even care about how it looks anymore,” Mr Sadat said.
Egyptians have had at least a token choice in their elections since 2005, when Mr Mubarak first allowed an opponent to run against him.
Mr Mubarak, by then in the 24th year of his presidency, won 87 per cent of the vote, according to the official count, and jailed his opponent soon after the election.
He was toppled in the 2011 revolution and a year later Egypt held its only truly contested election, resulting in the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi.
Mr Morsi was overthrown in a military coup in 2013 led by Mr Sisi. Mr Sisi ran for president in 2014 and won 97 per cent of the vote.
The window for candidates to qualify for this year’s election closes on January 29, meaning there is technically still time for either a genuine opponent or a token figure put up by Mr Sisi’s allies to get into the race.
But given the limited timeframe it appears unlikely that any major new candidates will emerge.