Dozens of Egyptians tore down, stomped on and burnt election banners bearing the name and face of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in the coastal city of Marsa Matrouh on Monday night, soon after he announced his bid for a third term.
Videos widely shared on social media showed residents attending a rally organised by Mostaqbal Watan, Egypt’s pro-Sisi ruling majority party.
Earlier on Monday, Mr El Sisi had announced his intention to run for a third term in office.
Thousands of his supporters had assembled at main squares in cities across the country before the announcement on Monday night, where they waved flags as giant screens broadcast the President's address to the nation.
But in Marsa Matrouh, in a rare display of public dissent, crowds were calling for Mr El Sisi’s removal, with some tearing down banners hung in the square before stepping on them as they chanted. One of the banners was burnt in the middle of one of the city's main squares.
“Burn it down, burn it down,” some protesters could be heard saying in footage shared on social media.
The Egyptian Ministry of Interior denied the gatherings on Monday night were politically motivated, claiming a fight broke out between fans of Libyan poets who were visiting Marsa Matrouh, which is about 230km from the Egypt-Libya border.
On Tuesday morning, an Arabic hashtag translating to “#TheInteriorMinistryStatement” was one of Egypt’s top trending topics as human rights activists, media organisations and witnesses from the rally contested the government’s claims.
“The celebration in which the party wanted to show the province’s support for the regime turned into a demonstration against it,” wrote Matrouh resident Shirin Arafah on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, in a message accompanied by a clip of the protest.
In July, hundreds gathered outside Marsa Matrouh's largest police station after a Bedouin man was shot and killed by a police officer in the city.
The protests resulted in the killing of another police officer before authorities arrested five protesters as well as the officer who shot the Bedouin man.
The December elections come as the country of 105 million people is gripped in economic crisis, with the Egyptian pound having lost half its value since March last year and inflation hitting record highs.