Cairo: More than two months before Egypt holds its first presidential elections since long-standing president Hosni Mubarak's overthrow, an increasing number of Egyptians keep launching bids for the country's top spot.
The polls are due to be held on May 23 and 24 with a possible run-off vote on June 16-17, according to an election commission. The name of the new president is due to be announced on June 21, the head of the commission, Farouk Sultan, said on Wednesday.
Even before the dates for the polls were made public, a dozen of people had declared intention to run for the president.
Key contenders include Mubarak's former prime minister Ahmed Shafik; ex- Arab League chief Amr Moussa, Islamist leader Abdel Moneim Abul Fetouh; leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi and Islamist writer Selim al-Awa. Two women - a famous TV host and a university professor—have said they will run too.
Earlier this week, Khaled Ali, an anti-corruption crusader, launched his presidential bid, dubbing himself the "candidate of the poor".
Two former intelligence officers have also said they will vie for the post.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, that has been ruling Egypt since Mubarak was forced to step down in February 2011, has said it will not have a nominee in the elections. The council has pledged to hand over power to an elected civilian administration by July.
Meanwhile, the influential Muslim Brotherhood, who controls nearly half of the parliament, has promised not to field a candidate for presidency, a gesture apparently meant to allay fears about group's political ambitions.
The Brotherhood has sacked Abul Fetouh, who was among its senior officials, after he decided to stand for president.
The latest one to throw his hat in the presidential ring is Safwat al-Arabi, the brother of the incumbent Egyptian Education Minister Jamal al-Arabi. Unveiling his bid on Wednesday at a rally in his hometown in Benha, north of Cairo, Safwat pledged to implement a programme, which he said would make Egypt one of the world's top countries in 10 years.
More contenders are expected to come forward in the weeks ahead to vie for the post, held by Mubarak for nearly 30 years, say experts.
"Many of the potential candidates enter the race fishing for attention at the lowest possible cost," said Mustafa al-Fekki, a writer and a former member of Mubarak's now-disbanded National Democratic Party. "They have realized that to achieve this, they will need no more than a news item in the media that has become obsessed with almost everything," he wrote in the independent newspaper Al Masry Al Youm.
Registration for contesting the election is set to start on March 10 and continues until April 8. The election commission has scheduled campaigning to begin on April 30 and run for three weeks.
Independents standing for president will have to collect 30,000 endorsements from at least 15 of the country's 27 governorates.
"The timetable announced for the polls is in itself an achievement," said liberal lawmaker Emad Jad. "It confirms the military's commitment to transfer power," he added.
The opposition has recently expressed skepticism about the junta's agenda and pressured it into expediting the power handover.