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Egyptians set to vote for new president in May

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July 24, 2013: In this image taken from Egypt State TV, Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi delivers a speech in Cairo, Egypt. (AP/Egypt State TV)

Egypt's presidential election will be held May 26 and 28, the electoral commission announced on Sunday. 

The crucial vote is expected to be won by the country's former military chief, who ousted an elected president last year.

The election commission said the results are expected by June 5, and if a second round is necessary it will be held by mid-month with results announced no later than June 26.

The country's powerful former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last summer, has announced his bid for office and is widely expected to win. His victory would restore a tradition of presidents from military background that Egypt had for all but one year since 1952.

Morsi was removed from office in July 3, amid massive protests demanding his resignation and accusing him of monopolizing power and mismanagement in the face of myriad economic and social problems. The military, led by el-Sissi, stepped in to remove Morsi and backed a political road map that promised presidential and parliamentary elections.

But the country's division only grew with Morsi's ouster. His backers, largely Islamists and sympathizers, have held near-daily protests demanding his reinstatement, describing the military overthrow of Morsi as a coup. Youth groups who initially backed Morsi's ouster have increasingly grown critical of the military's handling of the post-Morsi days, denouncing a heavy crackdown on Islamists and dissent. 

Several thousands have been detained and killed in political violence since Morsi's ouster.

But with a widely divided opposition, el-Sissi has garnered wide support among a public wary of turmoil. A wave of violent attacks by suspected Islamic militants against police and military have spiked since Morsi's ouster, killing hundreds of troops. The interim government blames Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood for orchestrating the violence, a claim the group denies.

According to Reuters, the Brotherhood says it remains committed to peaceful activism, but the state has declared it as terrorist group. 

El-Sissi announced on Wednesday that he was resigning from the military to run for office -- a requirement since only civilians can run for president. But he said he will still work to "fight every day for Egypt free of fear and terror." The Brotherhood and allies have said his nomination for office would only increase instability in the country.

According to Reuters, el-Sissi said he plans to tackle militant attacks that have spiraled since Morsi was ousted.

Protests against the current authorities by Morsi supporters have been held nearly every day. On Sunday, Egyptian state television reported that one student at al-Azhar University was killed during clashes with security forces trying to disperse a protest in and outside of the campus.

State television also reported that demonstrators had set fire to a police vehicle. During Friday protests, five people were also killed during violent clashes.

The Egyptian foreign ministry on Saturday said that 496 people, 439 of them soldiers and policemen, were killed in terrorist attacks since last summer, Reuters reported. 

To officially make a bid, el-Sissi would have to collect at least 25,000 signatures from 15 out of Egypt's 27 provinces in a petition demanding he runs. He had said he will not hold a traditional campaign, most likely over concerns for his own security. So far, only one other candidate, leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, who took third place in 2012 presidential elections, has said he would run.

The commission said that the window for nomination of candidates will open Monday until April 20. A three-week campaign period is slated to start on May 3.

The next president faces the challenge of reviving an economy hit by three years of political turmoil, Reuters reported. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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