January 27, 2014
CAIRO – Egypt’s military council has tipped army chief Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to run for the presidency a few hours after the interim president promoted him to the highest military rank in the Egyptian army.
“The top army officials all okayed Sisi running for the presidency,” a security source told Reuters on Monday, January 27.
The military commanders took the decision in a meeting convened to discuss “the demands of the people for (his) candidacy,” the official MENA news agency reported.
Sisi is expected to accept the nomination from the Supreme Council for Armed Forces (Scaf) and resign from his military position within days.
Scaf’s announcement came a few hours after the interim President Adly Mansour promoted him from general to field marshal, the highest military rank in the Egyptian army.
The promotion was regarded as a final goodbye to the army leader.
“I think this is goodbye to Sisi as army chief,” an official told Agence France Presse (AFP) of the promotion.
The army spokesman said in a statement that there have not yet been any “occupational changes for any of the military’s commanders”.
A senior military official told AFP Sisi would step down from his command within days and run in the election.
“He will then sit down, study a program” to implement after he wins the election, the general said.
Sisi “wants to unite the people, restore security and Egypt’s international standing,” said the general.
A victory by Sisi will continue a tradition of Egyptian presidents drawn from the military, after the army overthrew Morsi, the first civilian president, in July following mass protests.
The election is set to take place by mid-April, and will be followed by a parliamentary poll to restore democratic government by 2015, according to a new constitution.
Sisi’s bid will draw opposition not only from most Islamists but also some liberals.
“I would have preferred a presidential election comprising civilian candidates to install a civilian democracy,” Alfred Raouf, a member of the liberal Al-Dostour party, told AFP.
“But I can understand that people want Sisi to be candidate, as given their security fears they want a strong man” to head the country.
Other analysts said that an expected Sisi’s victory might influence the outcome of parliamentary elections by forming a party that would attract leading candidates.
“There are no doubts that the (new) president will announce his preferences and his political tendencies,” said Gamal Abdel Gawad Soltan of the American University in Cairo.
“The political currents which the (new) president says are closer to him will benefit from it.”
Sisi has gained influence after deposing Egypt’s first freely elected President Morsi on July 3 and replacing his government with an interim administration.
Ever since, the pivotal Middle East country has taken a sharply authoritarian turn, with activists, protesters, and Muslim Brotherhood members jailed in what rights activists, observers, and many in the international community call an attempt to silence dissent.
Many Egyptians have elevated Sisi to celebrity status, with chocolate shops selling sweets bearing his likeness. Vendors also sell everything from hats to pins to t-shirts plastered with his picture.
Graffiti calling him a “traitor” and a “killer” is also ubiquitous in Cairo as many other Egyptians despise him for his leading role in the crackdown on Morsi supporters after the coup, when security forces killed more than 1,000 protesters.
H.A. Hellyer, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that a presidential bid by a figure so hated, even if by only a small portion of the population, may not help Egypt’s democratic process or stability.
“There are grievances and there are fault lines, so my priority would be to figure out how you get to the next stage that at least lessens the polarization and increases the chance for bringing people with very disparate viewpoints together,” he told Christian Science Monitor.
“And I just don’t think that him running helps that.”
Article originally appeared on www.islamonline.com