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Sisi officially registers as presidential candidate - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Egyptians walk under a giant billboard supporting Egypt's former defense minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in central Cairo, on April 14, 2014. (EPA/Khaled Elfiqi)

Egyptians walk under a giant billboard supporting Egypt’s former defense minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in central Cairo, on April 14, 2014. (EPA/Khaled Elfiqi)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egypt’s former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi formerly declared his candidacy for the presidency on Monday, ending months of speculation about when he would finally register for the poll.

Egypt’s presidential elections law requires potential candidates to collect 25,000 signatures backing their presidential run from at least 15 of the country’s governorates before April 20 in order to be eligible for the poll, scheduled for May 26–27.

Footage from Egyptian television channels showed security personnel delivering boxes containing the signatures, which sources from the Sisi campaign said had reached more than 200,000, to the office of the body overseeing the polls, the High Presidential Elections Committee.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, former Egyptian foreign minister and Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa said: “After now becoming an official registered candidate, Sisi will soon begin launching his campaign program,” adding that the former army chief would be making a number of television appearances in the near future to announce his policies.

Moussa, a veteran politician and diplomat, headed Egypt’s constitutional drafting committee and ran for the presidency in 2012, but came in at fifth place. He was also expected to enter the race this year but chose instead to back Sisi, and now heads his campaign’s advisory board.

The final list of presidential candidates is due to be announced on May 2, but health officials tasked with carrying out physical and mental health checks of potential candidates—a preliminary step in the candidate registration process—told Asharq Al-Awsat that up to 16 candidates had declared their intention to run.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they had already carried out the necessary checks on eight candidates—Sisi and leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi among them—with a further eight to be vetted within the next two days.

The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that aside from Sisi and Sabahi, the candidates who had now undergone the tests “were not well-known figures.”

The sources also said that among the eight still waiting to undergo the checks were controversial lawyer and president of Cairo’s Zamalek soccer club, Mortada Mansour, and former state television anchor Bothaina Kamel, who officially announced on Sunday she would be standing, making her the only female candidate thus far.

Kamel’s announcement brings the total candidates who have officially announced their bid for the presidency to four.

Kamel tried to run during the 2012 presidential elections which brought ousted former president Mohamed Mursi to power, but failed to collect the mandatory 25,000 signatures backing her campaign. Her campaign manager told Egyptian independent news website Mada Masr that Kamel was running this year to give a platform for women’s rights “after she realized that the two main candidates were not giving the matter enough attention.”

Like Kamel, Mansour also attempted to run in 2012 but failed to collect the necessary signatures. A leading figure from his campaign, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Mansour would be able to collect the signatures this time around due to efforts of his team and those at the soccer club, who would be able to “collect the [signed] forms in record time.”

Unlike Mansour and Kamel, Sabahi was able to gather the necessary signatures back in 2012, eventually placing him third in the final poll result behind eventual winner Mursi and a former Mubarak aide and his final prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, respectively.

Hassan Shahin, a prominent member of the Sabahi campaign and one of the founding members of the Tamarod (Rebellion) movement which galvanized the street protests that led to Mursi’s ouster, denied media reports circulating in Egypt that Sabahi was struggling to collect the necessary signatures.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian foreign ministry announced on Sunday it had signed an agreement with the European Union that will allow representatives from the European Parliament to monitor the election process.

The elections will mark Egypt’s second presidential poll since the uprising that toppled Mubarak in 2012.

Additional reporting from Cairo by Mohamed Hassan Shaaban.