Cairo, Jan 24 (AP) President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi today submitted his nomination documents to Egypt’s election commission, a day after a potentially serious challenger was arrested over criminal allegations, including forgery and incitement against the country’s military.

El-Sissi, who is virtually certain to win March 26-28 vote, did not submit the documents in person, leaving a representative to do that.

Images posted on the president’s official Facebook page showed workers taking out of the back of a van boxes bearing the president’s image and the phrase “long live Egypt!” el- Sissi’s trademark slogan.

The boxes contained “recommendations” from voters who want el-Sissi to run for a second, four-year term.

Under the constitution, would-be candidates must obtain 25,000 recommendations from voters or secure the support of 20 elected lawmakers to qualify to run. Already more than 500 of parliament’s 596 lawmakers have declared their support for el-Sissi.

The military yesterday arrested former chief of staff and presidential hopeful Sami Annan over a slate of serious allegations.

The arrest all but ended the presidential ambitions of the ex-general, who became the latest in a series of potential contenders who have dropped out or been driven from the presidential campaign.

That leaves prominent rights lawyer Khaled Ali as the only serious would-be candidate to challenge el-Sissi. But Ali’s candidacy is also at risk because he was convicted in September of making an obscene hand gesture in public, and if that ruling is upheld on appeal, he will be ineligible. The next appeal hearing is scheduled for March 7.

Two other presidential hopefuls besides Annan have been forced to quit the race.

Former prime minister and air force Gen. Ahmed Shafiq said he did not think he was the “ideal” man to lead the nation after days of harsh criticism by pro-el-Sissi media.

Shafiq finished a close second to Morsi in 2012, which would have potentially made him a powerful contender this year.

Another would-be candidate was former lawmaker Mohammed Anwar Sadat, the nephew of the Egyptian leader who was assassinated in 1981. He said he quit the race partially because the country’s political “climate” was not conducive to campaigning and because he feared for the safety of his supporters. (AP)

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.