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Egypt army chief El-Sisi pushed towards presidential run

A new wave of campaigns in Egypt call on army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to run in upcoming presidential elections

Zeinab El Gundy, Monday 30 Sep 2013
Abdel Fattah El-Sisi
Egypt’s military chief Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi (Photo: AP)
Views: 10628
Views: 10628

With the popularity of Egypt's armed forces chief General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi at a peak, speculation is growing about whether the military leader could be the next president.

Talk shows and newspaper columns have, for the past month, been advocating the idea of the general running for president in order to fight the terrorist threat that they say the country is facing.

El-Sisi became a worldwide name in July when he announced that Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was being removed from power after mass protests against the unpopular elected leader.

El-Sisi stressed that the action was not a military coup and that the military was merely acting to safeguard the popular revolution. An interim president – Judge Adly Mansour – was swiftly appointed.

Recently, a number of campaigns have been launched calling on the general, who is also defence minister, to run for presidency in the elections slated for early next year.

The campaigns are called "Complete your favour," "A nation's demand" and "El-Sisi for president." Those behind them plan to gather signatures in order to press El-Sisi, who has said he has no desire to govern, to run.

The "El-Sisi for president" campaign claims to be the first campaign in Egypt calling for the popular general to become head of state. It also claims that it has printed two million petitions and set up 25 campaign offices in Europe and in Middle Eastern countries.

"We were the first campaign, founded on 27 July after the success of the army and General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to oust Mohamed Morsi and stand against the Muslim Brotherhood's international organisation," Samuel Ashy, the official spokesperson for the campaign, told Ahram Online.

On 26 July, mass protests took place across Egypt following a public call by El-Sisi for Egyptians to give the army a "mandate" to fight terrorism.

Ashy, who claims that "40 million" protesters demonstrated on 26 July, says that El-Sisi evokes former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, an enduring popular figure.

"We believe that General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is the son of the late president Nasser. He has the same charisma and personality," said Ashy, who was formerly spokesman for a brief presidential campaign by Omar Suleiman in 2011.

His judgment is one that many Egyptians agree with, including Nasser's son.

"If General El-Sisi decides to run for the presidency, the whole Nasserite current in Egypt will endorse him because they have found the spirit of my father Gamal Abdel-Nasser in him," Abdel-Hakim Abdel-Nasser said.

"General El-Sisi will return the balance to Egypt. He has also got the experience and ability to manage the country as a military man, especially in these circumstances," Ashy said.

Egypt's Nationalist Party, an offshoot of Hosni Mubarak's now-disbanded National Democratic Party, has called on the three campaigns to unite their efforts.

The campaign efforts are not new; even before the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, there was support for a presidential run by El-Sisi.

Following the clashes between security forces and residents in Port Said in February after the announcement of verdicts in the Port Said football violence trial, some groups in Port Said began to gather notarised signatures mandating General El-Sisi and the armed forces to take over from Morsi. The campaign sooner expanded to other governorates, including Sharqiya and Menoufiya.

That campaign was soon overshadowed by the Rebel (Tamarod) campaign to gather signatures opposing Morsi and calling for early presidential elections.

Endorsement of political figures

Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister under Hosni Mubarak and a former presidential candidate, told a leading newspaper that he thinks El-Sisi will win, should he run.

"The Egyptians want a strong president capable of taking decisions regardless of that decision's political effectiveness, as long as it does not contradict the constitution. The Egyptian mood now is angry, and scared of terrorism and chaos," said Moussa.

"General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is the most popular man at the moment. If he runs in the presidential elections he will win," he added.

"All the criticism surrounding electing military personalities relate to old experiences that contradicted democracy. But the president can be from a military background but elected in a democratic framework," said the former presidential candidate.

Ahmed Shafiq, a former military man who came second in last year's presidential elections, losing to Mohamed Morsi, seems to support a run by El-Sisi.

Shafiq stated earlier this week in an interview with Dream television channel that he would not run in the next presidential elections if El-Sisi was to run. "We all are going to endorse and support him if he runs in the elections," he said.

"Advanced nations benefit from army generals because they are being prepared well, as the military are the most knowledgeable people," Shafiq commented.

Last week, Pope Tawadros, the head of the Coptic Church, said that he had no objections to a presidential run by El-Sisi, though he preferred that the army chief wait until after this election cycle to run.

"I do not mind if General El-Sisi runs for the presidency, but it will be hard for him.  It is better not run in the upcoming elections and run instead in the following elections," said the Pope, adding that Egypt needs "discipline" and that he does not mind a president with a military background. 

Yasser El-Borhamai, a leading figure in Egypt's largest Salafist group the Salafist Call, also stated that he did not mind having the army chief as a president so long as "General El-Sisi resigns from his military post."

Mahmoud Badr, a co-founder of the Rebel campaign, also believes that General El-Sisi is a suitable candidate for the presidency in Egypt as long as the country is not stable.

"If it the situation is stable in Egypt, I will support a civilian president, but as long as things are not stable, I will support General El-Sisi if he runs," said Badr in public statements that caused controversy and drew criticism of the young revolutionary as an advocate for military rule. 

Nevertheless, the Rebel campaign made it clear that Badr represented himself only and not the group.

Unlike Mahmoud Badr, Nawara Negm, a well-known activist who supports Morsi's ouster and the army, did not support the idea of El-Sisi running as a presidential candidate.

"El-Sisi swore three times that he does not look for power or to rule. He should stick to his promise," Negm told Ahram Online.

Negm said that she wondered why people who say that El-Sisi is Egypt's best defence minister since 1973 want him to leave that critical position to become president.

"Another issue is that his presidential bid may put the 30 June movement in a very bad position before the world. It will appear as if it was a coup and that he turned against Mohamed Morsi not because Morsi was bad but because he wanted to rule instead of him," Negm said.

Morsi was Egypt's first civilian president as his victory in the 2012 presidential elections put an end to a 60-year military monopoly on the office. His predecessors, who ruled the country since the 1952 Free Officers' coup – Mohamed Naguib, Abdel-Nasser, Anwar El-Sadat, and Mubarak – all came from within the army's ranks.

The general's view

Although there has been no direct reaction from General El-Sisi about the matter, observers believe that he does not want to run for president, according to his few public interviews and speeches.

Official military spokesperson Colonel Ahmed Mohamed Ali stated that El-Sisi has no intention to run for the presidential elections.

"General El-Sisi has denied several times his intention to run for presidential elections. These petition campaigns are popular feelings towards the general that we cannot prevent," said Ali in an interview with Al-Arabiya TV channel.

In his interview with The Washington Post last month, the general made it clear that he did not "aspire for authority" when asked about whether he had ambitions to run for presidency or not. However, in that interview he did not eliminate the possibility that he would run for the position.

Nevertheless, Al-Shorouk daily claimed two weeks ago that according to informed sources, El-Sisi has given orders that those campaigns calling on him to run for the presidency should be stopped. Al-Watan newspaper also claimed that according to informed sources the general had decided that he would not run in any presidential elections.

"Prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him, said 'do not seek to rule'. This is why we want General El-Sisi – because he does not seek power," said Ashy, when he was told about the reports.

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Colin Hamilton
28-10-2013 05:05pm
Why not have El Sisi as a running mate for the Vice Presidency. As long as the right choice is made for the Presidential candidate, you have the best of both worlds.
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Mohamed Ahmed
08-10-2013 03:15am
ABSOLUTELY NOT ..... what ? go back to the old days ? NO SIR Id rather have Morsi back
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02-10-2013 09:20pm
for how long sisi rule by force ? public dont like enemies of democracy and killer of thousand peacefull peoples ,seculars always make problem for Egypt
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01-10-2013 10:05pm
A monumental mistake
Electing El-Sisi would be viewed in the whole world as a return to the military dictatorship and the general political system under Mubarak. Do Egypt really need another 30 years under the rule of military officers, led by 1.700 generals - twice as many as in the USA? With its special hospitals, clubs, factories and sweet deals? With its oppression of political opponents, including invented crimes and torture?
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01-10-2013 07:17am
A message to foreign business owners
I've seen too many foreign business owners run around saying who they think Egyptians should support politically. Some blow with the wind, kissing the feet of the MB until they are out of power and now doing the same with el-Sissi. I just want to say-it's not your country and not your business. I have made a decision and I encourage all others to do the same to boycott said businesses and discourage people from patronizing them. You want to express your political views, if you are legally here you have the option to become an Egyptian citizen with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. Otherwise, your views (mostly fake and just trying to secure your stay here) are unwelcome. Keep them to yourselves if you know what is good for you.
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07-10-2013 09:51pm
In a democracy...
...everybody who is a legal resident of a country, even if no citizen, has the absolute right to voice his or her opinion! Suppressing these voices is undemocratic. If foreigners live in Egypt they have a right to say under which conditions they would like to live. And the political conditions are a big part of that. If you like their views or not doesn´t matter at all! Silencing dissenting voices is a sign of authoritarian rule.
01-10-2013 08:34pm
Citizenship? Crazy?!
Hardly any foreigners want to become Egyptian citizens, while Egyptians are waiting in queue to get foreign citizenships.

30-09-2013 10:52pm
Tyrants don't need elections
Why does he need the elections? Dictators and tyrants don't need elections.
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