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Egypt's Sabbahi decries state 'support' for Sisi bid

Supporters of Egytian presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabbahi are jostling for campaign space in a vote expected to be swept by Sisi
Sabbahi's team has been organising near-daily rallies in Egyptian cities and villages (AFP)

Campaigners for leftist presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabbahi on Tuesday criticized several Egyptian cabinet ministers for publicly declaring support for former army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, 60, who officially applied to run for president one day earlier.
"The campaign's legal consultant will file an official complaint to [Prime Minister] Ibrahim Mahlab against a number of his ministers who have announced their support for Sisi in the upcoming presidential race," Sabbahi campaign spokesman Ahmed al-Beheiri said.
"This is a clear violation of the principle of equidistance [from all candidates] that should be maintained by state apparatuses towards the election process," he added.
Al-Beheiri said Sabbahi campaigners would file a formal complaint against Tourism Minister Hisham Zaa'zou, Local Development Minister Adel Labib and Youth and Sports Minister Khaled Abdel-Aziz, all of whom have officially endorsed Sisi in recent media appearances.
"The campaign calls on the prime minister to investigate these incidents and take measures to prevent them from reoccurring in order to guarantee transparent campaigning," al-Beheiri said.

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On Monday, Sisi formally submitted the documents needed to register his presidential candidacy to Egypt's presidential elections commission.
Egypt's recently-approved constitution makes it necessary for presidential hopefuls to collect written endorsements from 25,000 citizens in order to run in presidential polls.
Egypt plans to hold parliamentary elections following presidential polls – the latter of which are slated for 26-27 May – according to the terms of a transitional roadmap imposed by the army following last July's ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi.
According to a Sisi campaign source, some 300,000 people have officially endorsed the former top general's candidacy.
Sabbahi, considered Sisi's main electoral rival, has yet to submit his candidacy application.
Supporters of Egypt candidate jostle for campaign space
Supporters of Sabbahi are caught in a turf war as they jostle for campaign space in a vote expected to be swept by Sisi.
The leftist leader, a longtime opposition figure, was third in the 2012 presidential election won by Morsi.
Sabbahi's followers recently arrived at a Cairo roundabout for a rally, only to find it occupied by supporters of Sisi.
The standoff at the busy intersection in Cairo's working class neighbourhood of Shubra highlighted the limited space available for Sabbahi's campaigners, with almost every street, corner or square in the capital flooded with Sisi posters and banners.
Sabbahi's camp had to abandon the site and stage their rally some distance away, as Sisi's followers had already erected banners and set up loudspeakers.
Police intervened to prevent scuffles after heated arguments broke out between the two groups, an AFP correspondent witnessed.
Sabbahi's campaign team complained of repeated harassment by Sisi's supporters as their volunteers fan out to collect the 25,000 signatures needed to register their candidate's bid.
Despite the obstacles, Sabbahi supporters are adamant that their candidate can drub Sisi at the polls.
'A defeat of democracy'
Sabbahi is the only serious candidate standing against Sisi, who has become a nationalistic icon few dare to criticise.
The leftist's bid for the presidency is aimed at resisting "the transformation of the democratic exercise into a kind of an allegiance (to one man) or a referendum", his campaign spokesman Maasoum Marzouk told AFP.
Such a scenario, he added, would mean "a defeat of democracy".
"We can't go back to what existed before January 25 (2011), we can't accept allegiance to one person", Marzouk said, adding that giving so much power to one individual "naturally and necessarily leads to a kind of authoritarian rule".
Although official campaigning starts only on May 3, Sabbahi's team has been organising near-daily rallies in cities and villages to present his programme in a bid to counter the overwhelming support for Sisi projected by state and private media.
As part of their unofficial campaigning, Sabbahi's supporters are forming human chains in Cairo neighbourhoods like Shubra and in upscale districts such as Heliopolis.
Critics of Sisi say that should he win the election as is widely expected, Egypt would see a return to autocratic rule.
Their fears have been fuelled by the jailing by the interim authorities of several activists of the 2011 revolt for organising unauthorised protests and a police crackdown on Morsi supporters in which more than 1,400 people have died.
Sisi has repeatedly dismissed these fears, but students such as 22-year-old Omar Tarek are unconvinced.
"If Sisi wins, we can only look for another country" to live in, said Tarek.

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