CAIRO – Thursday’s seventh anniversary of the start of the uprising that ultimately toppled Hosni Mubarak coincides with heightened political tensions in Egypt ahead of the presidential election scheduled for March.
Inspired in part by the Arab Spring protests that removed the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Egyptians took to the streets on Jan. 25, 2011, with demands for political and economic change.
On Feb. 12, Mubarak stepped down after three decades in power.
This year’s anniversary comes as Egyptians are preparing for the third presidential election since the revolution, with incumbent Abdel Fattah al-Sisi running unopposed for a second four-year term.
A number of potential candidates have decided against challenging Al-Sisi, pointing to what they described as the “stifling” of the political scene by the current government.
Leftist human rights lawyer Khaled Ali, opposition politician Mohammed Anwar Sadat – the nephew of late President Anwar Sadat – and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq have all withdrawn their candidacies, while former military chief of staff Sami Anan was arrested after announcing his intention to run.
At Ali’s campaign headquarters, frustration was evident Thursday among the young veterans of the revolution who had responded to his slogan, “A Road to Tomorrow,” in hopes of regaining some of the political ground lost in the past four years.
Some political parties and movements that supported Ali plan to boycott the elections, now seen as no more than a “referendum” on al-Sisi.
Egyptians were looking forward to a truly competitive election such as the 2012 ballot that resulted in the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, who faced protests throughout his year in power before the military removed him in July 2013.
The deadline to file for the presidential election is Jan. 29.