There were already so many, and their number keeps growing: Since Tuesday, the number of members of the Egyptian Parliament who are supporting the candidacy of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in the presidential race in March—which he has not yet formally announced, but is sure to do so—has risen from 466 to 510 out of a total of 596. Egyptian law requires those who want to run for the presidency to have the signatures of 20,000 citizens in support, as well as the backing of 20 deputies.
Only 86 of the latter are yet to declare whom they will support, so it certainly doesn’t look like it will be a crowded field of candidates. One of those who have complained that the law is “too restrictive” is Mohamed al Sadat, the nephew of former president Anwar and himself a potential candidate—if only the climate wasn’t so “discouraging.” Sadat has not yet been able to present his proposed program to the press.
Khaled Ali, the candidate of the Left, has the same problem, in addition to an initial conviction for “obscene gestures.” His appeal will be on March 7, and if his sentence is confirmed, he will be arrested and lose the right to run in the elections.
A possible contender was Mubarak’s former strongman, Ahmed Shafik, whose attempt to enter the race has become a story unto itself. Expelled from the UAE where he lived, detained in Egypt on his return and then released, he has withdrawn from the race “voluntarily” two days ago, giving as the official reason that he did not believe himself to be “the right man at the present time.”
Off the record, sources close to him have said that he withdrew due to pressures from Cairo, which threatened to dust off old accusations of corruption involving him. Such accusations, one might say, would have to be true, given the role he played during the years of Mubarak’s rule, having risen through the ranks of the army to become a senior commander, and then with a short stint as prime minister in 2011 from January to March, in an ineffective attempt to appease the protesters.
The elections will be held from March 26 to 28 (March 16 to 18 for those who are voting abroad), and the runoff, if any, will take place from April 24 to 26. Prospective candidates still have until Jan. 29 to enter the race, if they actually manage to run the gauntlet of securing enough support from members of Parliament.