Egypt’s presidential election will be held late next month, the electoral commission announced on Sunday, finally setting dates for the crucial vote widely expected to be won by the country’s former military chief who ousted an elected president last year.
The commission set the first round of voting for May 26 and 27, with results expected by June 5. If a second round is necessary it will be held by the middle of the month, with results announced no later than June 26, the commission said.
General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led the overthrow of former Egytian president Mohammed Morsi on July 3 last year following massive protests, announced his bid for office on Wednesday last week and is widely expected to win. His victory would restore a tradition of presidents from military backgrounds that Egypt had for all but one year since 1952, when officers overthrew the monarchy and became the dominant force in politics.
However, a wave of violent attacks by suspected Islamic militants against police and military have spiked since Morsi’s ouster, killing more than 400 troops and police, according to government figures. The interim government blames Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood for orchestrating the violence, a claim the group denies.
Protests against the current authorities by Morsi supporters have been held nearly every day. On Sunday, Egyptian state television reported that one student at al-Azhar university was killed during clashes with security forces trying to disperse a protest in and outside of the campus.
State television also reported that demonstrators had set fire to a police vehicle. During protests on Friday last week, five people were also killed during violent clashes.
To officially make a bid, el-Sissi would have to collect at least 25,000 signatures from 15 out of Egypt’s 27 provinces in a petition demanding he runs. He had said he will not run a traditional campaign, most likely over concerns for his own security. So far, only one other candidate, leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, who took third place in 2012 presidential elections, has said he would run.
The commission said that the window for nomination of candidates was to open yesterday until April 20. A three-week campaign period is scheduled to start on May 3.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Minister of the Interior Mohammed Ibrahim told reporters that prosecutors were investigating allegations that Morsi’s secretary, Ayman el-Sirafy, had seized confidential national security documents while he was in office with the intention of passing them on to a foreign espionage agency and the media.
Ibrahim said his agents seized the documents, smuggled out of the presidential palace, before they were leaked to Qatar-based al-Jazeera network, and the intelligence agency of an Arab country allied with the Brotherhood. He did not name the country, but he was clearly referring to Qatar. El-Sirafy is in custody.
Ibrahim said el-Sirafy had recently instructed his daughter during a jail visit to hide the documents.
Morsi and senior members of his palace staff are already facing trial on espionage charges, including leaking secret national security documents to foreign militant groups, like Palestinian Hamas and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
Ibrahim, who is in charge of police along with domestic security agencies, did not say whether the new allegations will be added to the ongoing trial or be dealt with separately. If convicted of espionage, Morsi could face the death penalty.