CAIRO- Politician Mousa Mostafa Mousa became just the second candidate eligible to run in Egypt’s upcoming presidential election on Monday, just before a deadline was set to make President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the sole contender after withdrawals and a boycott call,Reuters reports.
Several leading opposition figures called on Sunday for a boycott of the March election, citing a wave of repression that has cleared the field of challengers to Sisi and left his top opponent in jail.
Former military commander Sisi was elected in 2014, a year after leading the army to oust President Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist. He is expected to easily win the vote, the third since protests in 2011 unseated long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak.
Mousa, who leads the Ghad party, told Reuters he had registered his candidacy at the electoral commission after having collected the required number of nomination pledges, submitting his official paperwork just minutes before the final deadline.
Would-be candidates were required to register by 2 p.m. (1200 GMT) on Monday after clinching at least 20 nominations from parliament or 25,000 pledges from citizens across the country.
Mousa said he had netted 47,000 pledges and the backing of 36 lawmakers. The electoral commission said last week that Sisi had earned more than 1 million pledges. Over 500 of parliament’s 595 lawmakers had already pledged support for Sisi.
The vote, slated for March 26-28, has come under heavy criticism from the United Nations, rights groups, and opposition figures who say its environment has been compromised by intimidation of opposition supporters, arrests, and a nomination process stacked in favor of the incumbent.
The electoral commission has said that it will ensure the vote is fair and transparent. The last-minute bid comes days after Hisham Genena, a former anti-corruption watchdog chief who had been working to elect former military chief of staff Sami Anan, was attacked and badly wounded outside his home on Saturday.
Anan’s campaign was abruptly halted after he was arrested last week and accused of running for office without military permission.
Following the attack, a group of prominent figures including members of Anan’s campaign, former Islamist presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abol Foutoh, and Mohamed Anwar Sadat, who halted his own presidential bid out of concern for the safety of his campaigners, called for a boycott.
They said the state’s policies were paving the way for extended limits to presidential terms and were “removing any opportunity for the peaceful transfer of power”.