Former Egyptian Prime Minister Shafiq Retreats From Running in 2018 Presidential Elections

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Egypt will hold its 2018 presidential elections from March 26-28, National Election Authority (NEA) announced on Monday.

"Exercise your right to run for office and vote, do your duty of choosing the president of your country, your voice will certainly make a difference", Lasheen Ibrahim, the judge heading the comission, said at a news conference in Cairo.

The announcement comes a day after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's only serious challenger - former army general and premier Ahmed Shafiq - bowed out of the race, reversing his pledge to challenge the president at the polls.

A run-off ballot will be held on April 24-26 if necessary, Ibrahim told journalists, with final results to be announced on May 1.

In a surprise move, Shafiq announced on Sunday that he would not run, stating that he "would not be the best person to lead state affairs in the coming period".

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In a Twitter statement, Shafiq said, "I earlier decided on my return to Egypt that I had to reassess my position from running for president, a decision I took when I was in UAE".

Egyptians living overseas are to cast their votes on March 16-18, he added, with second round ballots on April 19-21 if necessary.

A pro-Sisi campaign said in late December that it collected over 12 million signatures of Egyptians, more than 11 percent of the population, supporting Sisi to run for a second presidential term.

The upcoming presidential elections are Egypt's third since the January 25 uprising.