Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s last main challenger for the presidency pulled out on Wednesday, saying any hope of a new start for Egypt had ended in a race that is all but certain to deliver the leader a second landslide.
Former military commander Sisi was elected in 2014, a year after he led the army to oust Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, reports Reuters.
After rights lawyer Khaled Ali’s withdrawal on Wednesday and the arrest of the only serious challenger, former military chief of staff Sami Anan the day before, the March 26-28 vote now faces the prospect of featuring only one candidate.
Ali announced he was withdrawing from the race just hours after Sisi launched his own bid. He said his supporters were being intimidated and the electoral process was corrupt.
“People’s confidence in the possibility of transforming electoral gains into a chance for a new beginning, has unfortunately, in our view, for now ended,” Ali said at a news conference in central Cairo.
“We announce our decision not to enter this race.”
Ali said there was “stubbornness by the electoral commission and many violations” in favor of Sisi.
The electoral commission has said it will ensure the vote is fair and transparent. Egypt’s president’s office and government press centre have not commented on the election race.
Other candidates have until Jan 29 to register before a final list is announced on Feb 20. A small crop of lesser-known challengers have announced their intention to run but it is far from certain they will garner the necessary nominations required under Egyptian law to actually run.
Egypt, one of the top recipients of US foreign aid, was rocked by unrest that followed mass protests in 2011 which ousted Hosni Mubarak, one of four Arab leaders to be toppled by a series of uprisings across the region.
Supporters say Sisi has brought more security since 2013, although the country faces a stubborn Islamic State insurgency in the North Sinai region. Critics say his popularity has been damaged by austerity reforms and a crackdown on dissidents.
Ali’s announcement came a day after Egyptian authorities detained the last challenger seen as a real threat to Sisi’s re-election, ex-military chief of staff Lieutenant General Anan.
The army accused Anan of breaking the law by running for office without permission and his campaign was halted in its tracks.