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Egypt sets December presidential election, with Sissi set to retain power till 2030

CAIRO — Egypt will hold a presidential election over three days in December, officials announced Monday, with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi highly likely to remain in power until 2030.

Waleed Hamza, the chairman of the National Election Authority, said the vote will take place on Dec. 10-12, with a runoff on Jan. 8-10 if no candidate secures more than 50% of the vote. Egyptian expatriates will vote on Dec. 1-3, and in the runoff on Jan. 5-7, he added.

A handful of politicians have already announced their bids to run for the country’s highest post, but none poses a serious challenge to Sissi, who has been in power since 2014 and has faced criticism from the West over his country’s human rights record.

Sissi, a former defense minister, led the 2013 military overthrow of elected but divisive Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood, amid street protests against Morsi’s one-year rule. Since then, authorities have launched a major crackdown on dissent. Thousands of government critics have been silenced or jailed, mainly Islamists but also many prominent secular activists, including many of those behind the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Sissi has not announced his candidacy yet.

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He was first elected in 2014 and reelected in 2018 for a second four-year term. Constitutional amendments, passed in a referendum in 2019, added two years to his second term, and allowed him to run for a third, six-year term.

Sissi has maintained Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, and called to congratulate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when his new government took office nine months ago. They spoke again in June, after the slaying of three Israel Defense forces soldiers by an Egyptian policeman who crossed the border.

In the 2018 vote, Sissi faced only a little-known politician who joined the race at the last minute to spare the government the embarrassment of a one-candidate election after several hopefuls were forced out or arrested.

Among the presidential hopefuls is Ahmed Altantawy, a former lawmaker, who has repeatedly complained of harassment by security agencies of his campaign staff. He also claimed that authorities have spied on him through cutting-edge technology.

Others who announced their bid include Abdel-Sanad Yamama, head of the Wafd party, one of Egypt’s oldest; Gameela Ismail, head of the liberal Dostour, or Constitution, party; and Farid Zahran, head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.

The board of trustees of National Dialogue, a forum announced by Sissi last year to help chart Egypt’s roadmap through recommendations, called for reforms to ensure a “multicandidate and competitive” presidential election.

In a statement last week, the trustees demanded that all candidates and opposition parties be allowed to interact directly with the public.

“The state institutions and agencies are required to keep an equal distance from all presidential candidates so as to safeguard their legal and constitutional rights as well as equal opportunity to all of them,” the trustees said.

The board of trustees also called on the government to accelerate the release of critics held in pretrial detention and to amend the relevant legislation, which it said established “a sort of penal punishment without a court verdict.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this article.