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Last month, he was deported from the Emirates, a close Egyptian ally, and flown back to Cairo after he announced he intended to run.
He was met at the airport by unidentified security men and whisked away to a suburban hotel.
His public discourse has almost exclusively been focused on the fight against Islamic militants, efforts to revive an ailing economy and the infrastructure "mega projects" he has overseen.
He has meanwhile overseen one of the harshest crackdowns in memory, jailing thousands of Islamists along with activists behind the 2011 uprising.
Some critics already are speculating that the next move may be to amend the constitution to remove altogether the condition that no president serves more than two four-year terms.
With not a single serious challenger left in the race, pressure mounted on one political party that already declared its support for el-Sissi to field a face-saving candidate.
"All indications pointed to a premeditated intention to poison the entire process and empty it of its supposed democratic content," he said.
A key left-leaning figure in the 2011 uprising, Ali had the potential to win protest votes and, perhaps more importantly, revive interest in street politics by fellow "revolutionaries" whose ranks have been depleted by imprisonment, exile or marginalization.
"But in doing so, they risked broadening what's already a tragicomedy." In his final years, Mubarak allowed other candidates to run against him, and el-Sissi faced a challenger in 2014.
Doing so, said some party leaders and public figures loyal to el-Sissi, would enrich the country's democratic experience and counter doubts about the election's credibility.
But after two days of intense deliberations, the Wafd party, one of Egypt's oldest, decided Saturday not to do so and instead renewed its support for the incumbent, saying only he would be able to handle the "challenges" facing the nation.
What's startling is how general-turned-President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi seems to have dropped any pretense of holding a truly democratic vote.
He has shrugged off any accusations of a return to the kind of authoritarianism that was supposed to have been buried in the past after the popular uprising that erupted seven years ago and brought down longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.