Egypt schedules presidential election for late May

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CAIRO — Egypt’s election commission said Sunday that the first round of voting for a new president would be held May 26 and 27 and that any runoff would conclude within a month of that.

Originally, the polling was to have taken place by mid-April. But the odds-on favorite, Abdel Fattah Sisi, took his time declaring his candidacy. He finally did so last week.

Sisi, who stepped down as defense minister in order to run, led a coup against elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July. He is expected to win easily, although recent polls have suggested that the cult of personality that sprang up after he toppled Morsi may be fading somewhat.


The former field marshal, who resigned his military commission when he declared his candidacy, has painted a gloomy picture of prospects in the coming months, warning that difficult economic times and a growing Islamist insurgency would cause continuing hardship for Egyptians.

Underscoring that, suspected militants in the Sinai peninsula attacked a military personnel carrier on Sunday, killing at least one soldier and injuring several policemen, state media reported.

Sisi’s candidacy presents some awkwardness for the Obama administration, which declined to describe his removal of Morsi as a coup because that would have triggered an aid cutoff. The former military man’s candidacy suggests that he might have engineered Morsi’s ouster with his own ascent in mind.

The interim government that assumed power when Morsi was deposed has taken a strikingly authoritarian stance, outlawing most public protests, killing hundreds of demonstrators and jailing thousands of opponents. Most of those incarcerated are suspected members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s movement, but in recent months the authorities have also moved against secular opponents, including academics and journalists.

Three journalists working with the international broadcaster Al Jazeera English are due back in court this week. The trio, two of whom hold foreign passports, have been jailed since Dec. 29.


Twitter: @laurakingLAT

Hassan is a special correspondent.