Egyptian presidential hopeful Ahmed Tantawy suspends campaign after 'police harassment'

Opposition candidate says authorities are trying to prevent him from running against El Sisi at coming elections

Billboards in Cairo supporting President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in the run-up to December's presidential elections. AP
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Egypt's top opposition presidential hopeful has announced a 48-hour suspension of his campaign after hundreds of his supporters were harassed or arrested by authorities, he says.

Ahmed Tantawy, a politician and an outspoken critic of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, claims at least 73 of his supporters have been arrested by police since the state election's commission on Monday announced the timetable for the presidential election, which will be held in December.

There was no immediate reaction from authorities on the claims made by Mr Tantawy who has promised, if elected, to establish a genuinely democratic state and change the economic policies of the incumbent President.

Candidates are required by law to secure the written and state-certified support of at least 25,000 eligible voters from 15 of the nation's 27 provinces to officially enter the race. Alternatively, hopefuls must secure the support of 20 sitting lawmakers, according to the law.

In a video posted to his Facebook page, Mr Tantawy said his supporters managed to secure only two certified letters of support in the 48 hours since the announcement by the elections commission.

“My campaign staff alone are 23,000,” said the potential candidate with an smirk.

In contrast, state and pro-government media have posted videos and photos of thousands of Mr El Sisi's supporters lining up outside state offices – they are known locally as El Shahr El Aqary – across Egypt to certify their mandate for the incumbent to run.

They operate as certifying agents for documents such as contracts and house deeds.

Mr El Sisi has yet to say whether he will seek a third term in office but it is virtually certain he will and, barring unforeseen circumstances, is expected to win comfortably. If he triumphs, Mr El Sisi will have served 16 years in office by the end of his term in 2030.

“They have decided not to allow us to reach the stage where voters cast their ballots,” said Mr Tantawy.

“Only two of our brave heroes have secured mandates for me. What happened is best suited for a crime novel. Reaching the relevant employee to certify the mandate was like attack and retreat."

Updated: September 28, 2023, 4:24 PM