Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has confirmed that he will stand for a third term in office at an election scheduled for December.
The election, which el-Sisi is widely expected to win, comes as Egypt grapples with an economic crisis, record inflation, a sharply depreciated local currency and claims by the political opposition that its candidates are suffering harassment and intimidation.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
“I have decided to nominate myself to complete the dream during a new presidential term,” el-Sisi said, making the announcement during a televised speech on Monday evening.
“I call on all Egyptians to participate in this democratic scene to choose with their patriotic conscience who is worthy,” he said.
An estimated 65 million Egyptians are reported to be eligible to vote in the election, which will be held over three days from December 10 to 12. Egyptians living abroad will be able to cast their ballots on December 1-3.
A handful of politicians had already announced their bids to run for presidency but none poses a serious challenge to el-Sisi, who has been in power since 2014 after leading the army to remove Egypt’s first democratically-elected President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.
El-Sisi was announced the winner of presidential elections in 2014 and 2018 with 97 percent of the vote.
Egypt has witnessed a crackdown on freedom of expression under el-Sisi with hundreds of activists and political opponents imprisoned or forced into exile, which has led to outcries from human rights advocates.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed as a “terrorist” organisation and Egypt’s fragmented political opposition says it has come under pressure ahead of the election.
The campaign of Ahmed al-Tantawi, a former member of parliament and the most prominent potential opponent to el-Sisi, has complained that citizens have been impeded when they tried to register their support for his candidacy.
Prospective candidates need 25,000 public signatures or the support of 20 members of a heavily pro-Sisi parliament to stand for election.
Many of those showing up at public notary offices to register their support for al-Tantawi were told the registration system was not working, ordered to come back later or register somewhere else, the opposition official’s campaign manager Mohamed Abol Deyar told the Reuters news agency.
Tantawi has branded himself the “rule of law” candidate, as his campaign posts videos of him accompanying supporters to registry offices.
“In the end, they will not be able to say ‘sorry, you don’t have enough nominations’,” he told supporters on Sunday.
In a video shared by Tantawi’s campaign, dozens chanted “bread, freedom, social justice” – the popular rallying cry of the 2011 revolution that ousted longtime rule Hosni Mubarak.
Under el-Sisi, a former army chief who has overseen a crackdown jailing tens of thousands of dissidents, protests have been banned.
The Civil Democratic Movement, which groups together some small opposition parties, also said in a statement on Sunday that there had been multiple violations against citizens trying to nominate candidates to stand against el-Sisi.
Egypt’s National Election Authority says it is investigating complaints and has called such allegations baseless.