Sisi's only challenger lays low ahead of Egyptian election

CAIRO - Days ahead of Egypt's presidential election, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, the only candidate standing against incumbent Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is avoiding the limelight.
Moussa's presidential bid seemed to come as a surprise even to his own party. Hours before the candidate nomination window closed in January, a member of his team was photographed running down a Cairo street to the election commission to make the deadline.
Until then, the obscure leader of the Ghad party had been organizing events to endorse a second term for Sisi.
Moussa denies suggestions by critics that he is running just to provide a candidate other than Sisi in the election, but is still vocally supportive of the former general and army commander and has said he hopes he wins.
The former businessman's apparent change of heart came after all other opposition candidates dropped out, citing intimidation of supporters, media vilification and an unfair campaigning environment after the arrest of the only serious challenger.
Egypt's election commission says the vote will be free and fair, and Sisi's campaign says no candidate wanting to run has been blocked, but the events around other challengers have all but guaranteed Sisi a landslide victory.
Moussa said in several interviews that leaving Sisi as the sole contender was "an image that was not suitable for Egypt."
"We have a positive role to play in the competition, so (our bid) comes not just due to our nationalistic motivations - we also think we have ideas to offer," Moussa said in a January appearance on a TV show.
Supporters say Sisi has brought more security since 2013, when as army chief he overthrew Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, though Egypt faces a stubborn Islamic State insurgency in the North Sinai region. Critics say Sisi's popularity has been damaged by austerity reforms and a crackdown on political opponents, activists and independent media.