CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's presidential election will be held in late May, 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 mid-month with results announced no later than June 26, the commission said.
The country's powerful former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last summer, has announced his bid for office 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.
A mostly conscript force that fought four wars with Israel, the army has a strong support base among the population, many of whom see it as a pillar of the country's identity.
Morsi was removed from office on July 3, amid massive protests demanding his resignation and accusing him of monopolizing power and mismanagement in the face of myriad economic and social problems. The military, led by el-Sissi, stepped in to remove Morsi and backed a political road map that promised presidential and parliamentary elections.
But the country's division only grew with Morsi's ouster. His backers, largely Islamists and sympathizers, have held near daily protests demanding his reinstatement, describing the military overthrow of Morsi as a coup. Youth groups who initially backed Morsi's ouster have increasingly grown critical of the military's handling of the post-Morsi days, denouncing a heavy crackdown on Islamists and dissent. Several thousands have been detained and killed in political violence since Morsi's ouster.
But with a widely divided opposition, el-Sissi has garnered wide support among a public wary of turmoil.
Although military spokesmen denied for months the military chief was planning to run for office, the 59-year-old el-Sissi finally announced on Wednesday that he was leaving the army to run for office — a requirement since only civilians can run for president — saying he was responding to a popular call.
El-Sissi said he will work to "fight every day for Egypt free of fear and terror." The Brotherhood and allies have said his nomination for office would only increase instability in the country.
A wave of violent attacks by suspected Islamic militants against police and military have spiked since Morsi's ouster, killing over 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.
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