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Mousa, who formally submitted his candidacy 15 minutes before the deadline despite not publicly declaring his intention to run until the day before, denied allegations he was cooperating with the government, saying, “We are not puppets in this race.” However the 66-year-old has repeatedly endorsed Sisi, and last year formed a campaign called “Supporters of President el-Sisi’s nomination for a second term”.Egyptians took to social media and used the hashtag Al-Kombares, which loosely translates to someone playing the role of an “extra”, to mock Mousa’s candidacy and the upcoming poll.Egypt ranks 161 out of 180 countries in press freedoms according to watchdog Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 Press Freedoms Index. in recent months, authorities have blocked about 500 websites, including media outlets like Al-Jazeera and the local Mada Masr, while journalists have been arrested.
The vote will be held on March 26-28, with a run-off vote on April 24-26 if no candidate wins more than 50 percent in the first round. President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is running essentially unopposed for reelection; the regime has been relentless against even the hint of credible opposition.
The former general became president himself in 2014, winning 96.91 percent of the vote, although turnout was only about 47 percent of the 54 million voters, after voting was extended for a day.
Sisi’s critics say his popularity has been hurt by austerity reforms, security problems, a crackdown on dissidents and his decision to hand two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, which showered Egypt with billions of dollars of aid, touching a nationalistic nerve.
Democracy and a free press are again facing an existential threat in Egypt.
The regime of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is intensifying its long-running crackdown on journalists in the lead-up to the country’s March 26-28 presidential election.