Egypt’s election commission said Sunday only two presidential hopefuls, one of them the powerful former military chief who nine months ago ousted the country’s first democratically elected leader, have submitted their papers to run in next month’s polls. With only two people — former army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi — vying for the country’s top post, the race is certain to be dramatically different from Egypt’s 2012 presidential vote, when 13 candidates of all political stripes competed in a heated campaign. Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist from the Muslim Brotherhood, won that race, defeating a former general in a runoff to become Egypt’s first democratically elected president. Just over a year later, the military removed Morsi from office following mass protests calling for his ouster.
El-Sissi, the man who led the military’s move against Morsi, is riding a wave of popular support and is the clear front-runner in this year’s vote. Since Morsi’s ouster, el-Sissi has achieved a near-cult of personality. His picture is plastered in posters around the country; songs about the military and him ring out in weddings and private cafés, and he has been hailed in state and private media as a national saviour.
Election commission spokesman Abdel-Aziz Salman said el-Sissi garnered 188,930 signatures of support. That’s nearly eight times the required 25,000 signatures from at least 15 of Egypt’s 27 provinces that a would-be candidate needs in order to run.
El-Sissi’s only rival is Sabahi, a leftist politician who came in third in the 2012 elections after receiving around five million votes and largely appealing to Egypt’s secular youth and working class. Salman said Sabahi submitted 31,555 signatures.