The most prominent potential challenger to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in elections scheduled for December announced on Friday he would not be standing after he was unable to secure the required number of public endorsements.
The campaign of Ahmed el-Tantawy, a leftist former member of parliament, said officials and pro-government thugs had prevented many people from registering their support for his candidacy while security forces had arrested dozens of his supporters and blocked him from holding campaign events.
Egypt’s National Election Authority has said that such allegations were baseless.
Though Sisi is expected to win easily in December, Tantawy’s campaign had stirred some interest because he and his supporters had tried to campaign and gather openly on the streets in a way that has become highly unusual after a long crackdown on dissent across the political spectrum.
In order to stand in the presidential vote, candidates were required to collect endorsements from 25,000 members of the public across 15 governorates, or from 20 sitting members of parliament, by October 14, 2023.
The campaign for Tantawy, who has 2 million followers on Facebook, said he had been able to gather 14,116 endorsements, including just 54 in his home city of Kafr El Shaikh.
“We are not withdrawing and did not withdraw, if force has closed a door, we will open many doors of hope, mark my words,” Tantawi told supporters in Cairo on Friday.
“I personally know dozens of Egypt’s sons and daughters who are more competent and deserving than me, but the current president is not one of them,” he said.
Sisi, a former army chief, was elected in 2014 and 2018 with 97% of the vote. In 2019 the constitution was amended to allow him to stand for a third term.