Veteran leftwinger Sabbahi enters Egypt’s presidential race

Credible contest ensured but army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi expected to win by landslide

The veteran leftwinger Hamdeen Sabbahi has become the first candidate to officially enter the race to succeed Mohamed Morsi as Egyptian president, ensuring that the army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi will not be elected unopposed.

Gen Sisi, who rose to popularity after toppling Mr Morsi last July, is still expected to win by a landslide. But the involvement of Mr Sabbahi, who finished third in Egypt’s 2012 presidential elections, means there will be a credible contest, despite other potential candidates opting out of the race in deference to Gen Sisi.

Using nationalism
Mr Sabbahi's platform is likely to tread on Gen Sisi's patch. Both men use nationalism to drum up support, and both have been positioned by their backers as successors to Egypt's widely respected 60s autocrat, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

In his first campaign speech, Mr Sabbahi also claimed to carry the flame for Egypt’s revolution – a mantra that implicitly positions Gen Sisi as the establishment figure.

Mr Sabbahi’s declaration has already split the leadership of Tamarod, the high-profile protest movement that led calls for Mohamed Morsi’s overthrow last summer.

Two of its co-founders have declared their support for Mr Sabbahi, while its leader has stayed loyal to Gen Sisi.

It is unclear how much of a campaign Mr Sabbahi will be allowed to make. His party claimed two men who displayed posters of Mr Sabbahi in their cars were arrested in a northern city this week.

Gen Sisi has not yet formally announced his own candidacy, but was given the blessing of his fellow generals last week.

– (Guardian service)