June 18, 2024

Foul play prevents candidates from getting support needed to challenge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, opposition says.

Opposition parties in Egypt have said individuals seeking to support candidates to stand against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have been obstructed from doing so.

During a press conference on Wednesday, members of the Civil Democratic Movement (CDM) presented individuals who recounted being blocked in various ways from supporting candidates. Egypt’s National Election Authority has said it has investigated complaints and that such allegations are baseless.

Under Egypt’s election system, candidates must secure the backing of at least 25,000 members of the public from 15 different governorates, or 20 members of parliament, and register their candidacy by October 14.

Rania el-Sheik said she was trying to register to support former member of parliament Ahmed Altantawy when a scuffle she said was provoked by “thugs” broke out at the notary’s office. Altantawy is currently the most prominent individual planning to stand against el-Sisi.

El-Sheik said a woman pulled her hair, while a male colleague was hit during the altercation. Elsewhere, she said others were turned away when they tried to register support.

“In every place, public employees have pre-determined reasons: the system is down, the internet isn’t working, the power is cut, your ID card isn’t showing for us,” she said.

Altantawy’s campaign has complained that people trying to register support for him have been blocked and that more than 80 of his supporters have been arrested.

Magdy Hamdan, a Conservative Party official, said he was also blocked from submitting his endorsement at one notary’s office. When he tried to enter a second, a group of men brought in some rubbish collectors and beggars and began spraying them – and him – with water.

When asked for comment by the Reuters news agency, Egypt’s state information service referred to statements by the election authority denying any violations.

The election authority has said it has instructed notary offices to extend their hours to allow people to register.

El-Sisi, who has overseen a far-reaching crackdown on dissent in Egypt, is widely expected to secure a third term in December, with rights groups expressing doubt over how free the election will be.

The former military chief was first elected in the wake of the 2013 military coup that unseated Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi.

He ran virtually unopposed in that election, winning more than 96 percent of the vote. He won a similar proportion in 2018, with critics saying repeated crackdowns have prevented any meaningful challenges.

Constitutional amendments passed in a referendum in 2019 added two years to el-Sisi’s second term. They also allowed him to run for a third six-year term.

The election is set to be held over three days, between December 10 and 12, with a run-off scheduled from January 8 to 10 if no candidate secures more than 50 percent of the vote.

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