Egypt's Sisi submits his presidential candidacy documents to the NEA

Egypt's former army chief of staff Sami Anan leaves a news conference at his office in Cairo

Egypt's former army chief of staff Sami Anan leaves a news conference at his office in Cairo.\ MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY REUTERS

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi officially launched his bid for a second term in office on Wednesday, registering himself as a candidate for the March election, state news agency MENA said, a day after his main potential rival was arrested.

"We today announce our decision not to enter this race, and will not present our candidacy papers", the candidate, rights lawyer Khaled Ali, said at a news conference in Cairo.

The army statement said that Anan falsified official documents stating he has ended his service at the armed forces, adding he will be summoned to be interrogated over "the violations and crimes" included in his move towards the presidential bid.

Alongside this, the statement accused Anan of inciting against the armed forces by causing a disruption between the armed forces and Egyptians, in the video where he declared his presidential hopes.

Supporters say Sisi has brought more security since 2013, although the country faces a stubborn Islamic State insurgency in the North Sinai region.

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"He knows that he's under no pressure from overseas to play by the rules, so there's no incentive domestically or internationally to make this a free and fair election".

A top candidate in Egypt's upcoming presidential elections was forced to abandon his campaign after he was arrested and accused of running for office without permission from the armed forces.

Sisi, who was elected president in 2014 a year after heading the military ouster of Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi, on Friday confirmed he would be seeking a second four-year term.

Mr Anan, who served as the army's chief of staff from 2005-2012, announced his intention to stand against President Sisi on social media earlier this month.

Gen. Sami Anan, a former army chief-of-staff and would-be presidential candidate, has been detained by the Egyptian authorities for questioning, according to his official spokesman.

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The retired general must also secure the approval of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, of which he was once a member, before he can proceed with his candidacy. But the past weeks have seen a string of would-be contenders who could have garnered a notable protest vote drop away.

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. In announcing his candidacy on Saturday, he lashed out at el-Sissi's record and pledged to appoint Hisham Geneina, a onetime anti-corruption czar fired by el-Sissi, as vice president for human rights.

Now Mr. Mubarak is in peaceful retirement, having been released from custody past year, while numerous revolutionaries who helped topple him are in Mr. Sisi's jails, their hopes for democracy apparently dashed for now.

Ali also cited a case filed against him, where he was sentenced in September in absentia to three months in jail on accusations of "offending public decency", a ruling he appealed.

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