Hamdeen Sabahi, a prominent left-wing politician in Egypt, announced on Sunday that he will run in the country’s upcoming presidential elections, enlivening a race that army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is widely expected to win.
Sabahi came third in the 2012 election won by Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was deposed by the army in July following mass protests against his rule.
“My personal decision as a citizen is to run for the coming presidential elections,” Sabahi said in a public address to supporters. “Hamdeen Sabahi’s battle is the battle of the revolution.”
Sabahi, 59, built up a large following during his past run for the presidency, using a popular touch to beat opponents with better funded campaigns.
The dearth of candidates ahead of this year’s vote provides a stark contrast to 2012, which was the country’s first free election.
Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, a moderate Islamist who ran for the presidency two years ago, has said he does not plan to enter the race, saying the current circumstances are neither free nor democratic.
Members of his party were detained in January while campaigning against a new constitution passed in a referendum.
Since Morsi was deposed, hundreds of his supporters have been killed and thousands arrested in a state crackdown on the Brotherhood, Egypt’s best organised party until last year.
Some of Egypt’s best known secular dissidents have also been jailed in recent months for protesting without permission.
Sisi, 59, seems certain to win the election, though he has yet to formally declare his candidacy.
He is popular among many Egyptians who were relieved to see the end of Morsi’s rule and who see him as the kind of strong leader needed to stabilise a country in crisis.
He has been lionised by state and privately owned media.
Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said Sabahi’s decision could encourage more candidates to run, adding that a more competitive vote would bolster a Sisi presidency.
“It is in his favour to win by 60 percent rather than 90 percent,” Nafaa said.
The election is expected as early as April.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-02-08