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Extras needed: Egyptian regime-sanctioned opposition leader 'set to run against Sisi' Open in fullscreen

Karim Traboulsi

Extras needed: Egyptian regime-sanctioned opposition leader 'set to run against Sisi'

Al-Badawi (R) is a controversial figure now accused of legitimising Sisi's sham elections [AFP]

Date of publication: 26 January, 2018

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A politician has signalled his intention to provide Sisi's guaranteed re-election with a thin veneer of respectability after credible rivals were forced to withdraw.

The chief of a small political party has signalled his intention to run against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in March's presidential election - a poll which Egypt's "strongman" is almost guaranteed to win, after all real rivals were forced to withdraw. 

Al-Sayyid Al-Badawi, leader of the New Wafd, a liberal self-styled opposition party that has supported Sisi in previous elections, on Friday applied to undergo a medical examination, a necessary step for presidential hopefuls.

While Egyptian state media say this does not necessarily mean his candidacy is official, sources in his party told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister publication the news will be made official on Saturday by the party's leadership.

Sisi is the only candidate so far to have officially submitted papers to contend the election in which he is almost sure to win a new four-year term. At a recent press conference, a journalist began to ask what he would do were he to lose the election, but the reporter was interrupted by Sisi's unbridled laughter.

Registration for the elections ends on Monday.

Al-Badawi, 68, is a controversial figure who has been mired in corruption allegations and accusations of involvement in Sisi's 2013 military coup against President Mohamed Morsi, the Islamist who became Egypt's first elected leader.

According to a biography supplied by Al-Ahram, Al-Badawi is a wealthy businessman with large investments in the pharmaceutical industry and in Egyptian television, serving as the CEO of Sigma Pharmaceuticals and pro-government Al-Hayat TV channels.

On social media, Egyptian activists and commentators have dismissed the reports of his candidacy as an attempt by the Egyptian regime to lend legitimacy to a presidential election that has steadily been exposed as a charade, tantamount to a one-candidate referendum for Sisi.

Read more: A shoo-in for Sisi in Egypt's presidential election

In recent weeks, several potential candidates have pulled out of the race, many under pressure or direct coercion from the Sisi regime. One, the former general Sami Anan, was detained.

Speaking to Gulf News, an official in Al-Badawi's party defended his last-minute potential candidacy, saying that after the withdrawal of most candidates, the New Wafd "thought of fielding a candidate in support of the principles of pluralism and democratic rivalry". 

The conditions in Egypt currently do not allow for fair grounds to run in the elections
- Khaled Ali

Serial withdrawals

Egyptian human rights lawyer Khaled Ali announced on Wednesday he was no longer planning to resume his campaign and was withdrawing from the presidential race.

"The conditions in Egypt currently do not allow for fair grounds to run in the elections," he said.

Egypt's army on Tuesday detained Sami Anan, a former military chief of staff during Hosni Mubarak's reign, over his intention to run for president in upcoming elections, his campaign organisers said.

Former Egyptian premier Ahmed Shafiq announced he would not stand against Sisi after he was deported from the UAE, where he had been living in exile since 2012, back to Egypt last month.

He is believed to have been placed under house arrest since he returned.

Mohamed Anwar Sadat, a dissident and nephew of Egypt's late president of the same name, also announced last week that he would not run in the poll because the political climate was "not right" for free elections.

Sisi has presided over Egypt since his military coup in 2013 that reversed many of the gains of the January 25 revolution. He has spearheaded a massive crackdown against dissidents. In 2014, he won a widely critcised election, serving a four-year term that expires in June.

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