Egypt sets presidential election date day after Sisi rival bows out
Egypt's presidential election will take place on 26-28 March, the national election commission announced on Monday, with a run-off set for 24-26 April if needed.
The announcement comes a day after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's only serious challenger - former army general and premier Ahmed Shafiq - bowed out of the race, reversing his pledge to challenge the president at the polls.
"I have decided to not run in the upcoming 2018 presidential elections," Shafiq said in a statement on Sunday. "I saw that I will not be the best person."
Shafiq said last month that he was reconsidering his intention to run in the 2018 presidential elections, after relatives said his whereabouts were unknown for around 24 hours.
Shafiq had not been seen since an airport official said he landed in Cairo on 2 December, after aides claimed Emirati authorities deported him.
The former army general was forced to leave the Gulf country, where he had been living in exile since 2012, after he announced his intention to run in next year's election, lawyer Dina Adly had said in a statement on her Facebook page.
"I said my intention was based on the information and the general idea I had about the current situation," Shafiq told talk-show host Wael El Ebrashy by phone at the time.
But following his return to Egypt, he needed to "look into the situation and check it thoroughly; now I will go out and see the situation on the ground", he told Ebrashy from a Cairo hotel.
"Now I think there is a chance that compels me to verify accurately what exactly is needed," Shafiq said.
Shafiq, appointed premier by president Hosni Mubarak shortly before Mubarak was overthrown in 2011, was seen as a main challenger for Sisi.
First-round results of the election in March will be announced on 2 April and, in the event of a run-off, on 1 May.
The last presidential elections were held in 2014 when Sisi was elected to office.
Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.