Last updated: 30 March, 2014

Egypt presidential election set for May 26 and 27

Egypt announced a presidential election for May 26-27, a poll likely to be swept by the retired army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who deposed the Islamist president in July.

Sisi is expected to win the vote riding on a wave of popularity for having removed the divisive president Mohamed Morsi after mass protests demanding his resignation.

The only other main candidate is leftwing politician Hamdeen Sabbahi, who came third in the 2012 election that Morsi won. The new president will be announced by June 26 at the latest.

The election would go into a second round on June 16-17 if there was no outright winner, but that outcome seems unlikely given Sisi’s popularity and the absence of serious contenders.

The commission said registration of candidates would open on Monday and run until April 20, and campaigning from May 3-23.

The announcement of the dates by electoral chief Ashraf al-Asy came after Sisi resigned as defence minister and army commander last week to contest the election, pledging to eradicate “terrorism”.

Egypt has been rocked by often violent protests and a spate of militant attacks which have killed almost 500 people, mostly policemen and soldiers, the government says.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, blacklisted as a “terrorist organisation”, has said there can be no stability under Sisi as president, accusing him of having staged a coup against Egypt’s first freely elected and civilian president.

The Islamists have vowed to continue protests, which along with persistent militancy, threaten to further damage the country’s already battered economy.

At least 1,400 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed in a police crackdown on street protests, according to Amnesty International.

On Sunday, a student was killed at Al-Azhar university in Cairo, a prestigious seat of Sunni Islamic learning, in clashes between protesters and security forces, official daily Al-Ahram reported on its website.

The student’s death comes two days after five people, including an Egyptian journalist, were killed in clashes between Islamists and police in Cairo.

In Sinai, militants killed a soldier on Sunday, security officials said.

Hours later masked men shot dead a retired army colonel on a highway between Cairo and the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya, officials said.

The killings came as interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim announced the arrest of leaders of militant group Ansar al-Shariah that targeted policemen in the Nile Delta.

– Vow to restore order –

Sisi has vowed to restore law and order and address the teetering economy, in turmoil since a popular uprising overthrew veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

He is supported by a broad range of liberal and nationalist parties.

But some dissidents who supported his ouster of Morsi, after millions demonstrated demanding the Islamist’s overthrow, now say he is reviving undemocratic practices.

The retired field marshal has said there will be no return to the corruption and human rights violations of the Mubarak era.

But analysts and opposition activists say the country is already witnessing its worst government abuses in decades.

According to a roadmap in a new constitution passed in a January referendum, the presidential contest will be followed by a parliamentary poll to restore elected rule by the end of the year.

Previous polls since Mubarak’s overthrow were all won by the Brotherhood, before a court dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament in 2012.

Many of their former lawmakers, along with top and mid-level Brotherhood leaders, have been arrested along with an estimated 15,000 people in the police crackdown.