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January 24, 2018 9:06 am

Egyptian President Sisi Launches Re-Election Bid After Biggest Rival Arrested

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People walk by a poster of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo, Jan. 22, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Amr Abdallah Dalsh.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi officially launched his bid for a second term in office on Wednesday, submitting documents to register as a candidate, state news agency MENA said, a day after his main potential rival was arrested.

Sisi, who won an election in a landslide in 2014 after leading the army in ousting Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi a year earlier, becomes the first candidate to register officially for the election set for March 26-28.

Candidates must register from Jan. 20 to 29 before a final list of candidates is announced on Feb. 20, according to the election commission.

Sisi’s popularity has been damaged by austerity reforms, security problems and a crackdown on dissidents, his critics say, but he is widely expected to win the election comfortably.

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The electoral commission has said it will ensure the vote is fair and transparent.

Those who have considered challenging Sisi describe a sweeping effort to kill off their campaigns before they begin, with media attacks on candidates, intimidation of supporters, and a nomination process stacked in favor of the former general.

Former military chief of staff Lieutenant General Sami Anan, the last challenger seen as a potential threat to Sisi’s re-election, was detained on Tuesday and had his campaign stopped after the army accused him of breaking the law by running for office without permission.

Khaled Ali, a rights lawyer who may be disqualified over a pending court case centered on his alleged use of an obscene hand gesture, remains one of the only presidential hopefuls still actively pursuing a bid.

Ali’s campaign said it would hold a news conference on Wednesday to announce their “final position” on the presidential elections.

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