CAIRO: Egypt's former military chief on Monday took the final formal step to run in next month's presidential election, submitting to the election commission eight times the number of signatures required, his campaign said in a statement.
Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a retired field marshal, did not deliver the 200,000 signatures in person. His campaign said a legal adviser, Mohammed Bahaa Abou Shaqah, delivered them.
Photos released by the campaign and footage aired on local TV networks showed security guards delivering white boxes with an image of the retired soldier plastered on the side along with the name of the province from which it said the signatures were obtained.
Officials from the election commission could not be reached to confirm the campaign's statement.
It is mandatory for any presidential hopeful to secure 25,000 signatures from at least 15 of the nation's 27 provinces in order to run in the May 26-27 vote. El-Sissi, who led the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi last July, was the first hopeful to submit the signatures.
El-Sissi's likely chief rival in the election is leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who finished a strong third in the first round of the last presidential election, in June 2012. Morsi won the race in a runoff against second-placed Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
El-Sissi's campaign says more signatures continue to pour into its Cairo headquarters, something it described as a "unique example of support and national backing" for the 59-year-old career soldier.
The U.S.- and British-trained el-Sissi is the most likely winner of next month's vote. He has enjoyed nationwide support in the nine months since he ousted Morsi. Many Egyptians see him as a potential savior, delivering the nation of some 90 million people from its seemingly countless woes.
El-Sissi, however, has yet to announce an election program that clearly spells out what he intends to do to revive the economy, restore security and save the vital tourism sector from its slump.
The run-up to the election has been marred by continuing street protests by Morsi supporters, who clash nearly daily with security forces. Egyptian troops and police, meanwhile, continue to battle Islamic militants in the strategic northern part of the Siani peninsula and elsewhere.
At least 16,000 supporters of the ousted leader have been detained and hundreds killed in the nine months since the military takeover. Morsi himself and most leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which he hails, are on trial on charges that range from espionage and incitement of murder to corruption and conspiring with foreign groups. Some of the charges carry the death penalty.