London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egypt is bracing for more violence on Saturday, as the official start of presidential election campaigning gets underway. Popular former defense minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is set to compete with Nasserist presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabahy at the May 26–27 elections, with most analysts expecting the former army chief to win.
Egyptian security forces across the country came under attack on Friday, with at least four people reported killed, including one police officer and one soldier.
Two suicide bombings in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula resulted in the death of a soldier and wounded at least seven others, while a policeman in Cairo was also killed in a bomb attack.
Two people were also shot dead in Alexandria, where supporters and opponents of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Mursi clashed.
Sisi will officially kick off his election campaign with a social media push, promoting the Twitter hashtag #TahiaMasr, meaning “Long Live Egypt.” He is also set to appear in his first official public events as a presidential candidate on Sunday, after announcing his candidacy last month, with two lengthy televised interviews where he will set out his vision for Egypt.
The Sisi campaign has also announced a concert to mark the official launch.
A spokesman for the Popular Campaign for a Sisi Presidency, Abdul Nabi Abdul Sattar, told Asharq Al-Awsat the campaign will hold pro-Sisi rallies in each of Egypt’s 27 governorates in the run up to the poll. The Popular Campaign is a broad pro-Sisi umbrella group comprising a total of 30 parties and 41 movements that support the former defense minister’s presidential bid. Abdul Sattar is the founder of the Kamel Gameelak (“Complete your Favor”) popular campaign, which had called for an election boycott if Sisi decided not to run.
Sabahy unveiled his election platform on Wednesday, prior to the official start of campaigning, pledging to repeal a controversial anti-protest law. The Nasserist presidential hopeful sought to portray himself as the “revolutionary” candidate, calling on Egyptians to stand by their “legitimate dreams” and criticizing “authoritarian rule.”
He came under fire for the move, with Egypt’s Presidential Election Commission announcing it is considering taking legal action against Sabahy for violating campaign rules.