Egypt's SCAF empowers Field Marshal El-Sisi to run for president

Ahram Online, Monday 27 Jan 2014

Egypt's army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi receives backing from top military council to run for president

Field Marshal Abdel Fattah El-Sisi
Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (fourth from right) during the SCAF meeting (Photo: Facebook page of the armed forces' spokesman)

Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has empowered army chief and defence minister, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, to run for president.

Anonymous sources speaking to state news agency MENA said that El-Sisi will announce his decision in the next few hours over whether or not he will enter the upcoming presidential elections as a civilian candidate.

SCAF said El-Sisi would decide whether or not to run for president in accordance with "his sense of patriotism and the popular demands of the Egyptian people."

The SCAF statement, broadcasted on Egypt's state-run TV as a voice recording, said that based on El-Sisi's efforts during these "historic times," SCAF considers the army chief's run for presidency "a mandate and an obligation."

SCAF said that if El-Sisi is chosen as Egypt's next president, it will be based on the free will of the Egyptian people.

The statement reads that El-Sisi, at the end of the emergency meeting where his presidential bid was discussed, thanked the military council for giving him the "right to respond to the call of duty."

Meanwhile, other media outlets have circulated reports citing anonymous senior sources that if El-Sisi resigns from his post to run for president, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Sedky Sobhy would replace him as defence minister.

However, Army Spokesman Ahmed Ali said that "news that deals with the future change of careers of senior leaders of the military establishment are inaccurate."

Ali stated via his official Facebook account that the armed forces would announce new appointments or change of job functions for the military's senior leaders.

El-Sisi remains the defence minister until he decides whether or not to run for presidency as a civilian candidate.

The door for nominations for Egypt's presidency will open on 18 February, sources told MENA.

Earlier on Monday, interim President Adly Mansour issued a presidential decree promoting El-Sisi from the rank of general to field marshal.

El-Sisi will be officially granted the title on 1 February, according to the Facebook page of armed forces spokesman Ali.

Until his appointment as defence minister by deposed president Mohamed Morsi in August 2012, El-Sisi had been serving as head of military intelligence, a post he'd held since 2010.

His popularity soared a year later when, amidst mass protests demanding an end to the Morsi's rule, El-Sisi appeared on television on 3 July and announced the end of the troubled Islamist president's one-year rule.

A number of campaigns have since sprung up pressuring the general to run for president in upcoming elections.

While he had initially announced he would not seek power, El-Sisi has more recently said that the possibility is open.

On Sunday, Mansour announced that presidential elections will be held before parliamentary polls -- an amendment to the transitional roadmap which was agreed upon by various political forces on 3 July.

According to Mansour's decree, the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) should begin procedures to hold the polls in no less than 30 days and no more than 90 days following the successful passage of the country's newly-amended constitution.

The constitution was put into effect on 18 January -- after a two-day referendum on 14 and 15 January which yielded an overwhelming 98.1 percent approval of the charter.

Accordingly, presidential elections are slated to occur between 17 February and 18 April.

On Saturday, tens of thousands converged on Tahrir Square and elsewhere nationwide to celebrate the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution. Thousands carried banners and posters urging El-Sisi to run for the presidency.

Earlier in the month El-Sisi stated that he would only run for president upon an army mandate and a request from the Egyptian people.

For his side, Nasserist leader and former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, who has announced his intention to run in the coming presidential poll, said in an interview earlier this month that El-Sisi's running for president was a dangerous move for the army and not in the revolution's best interests.

The danger, Sabbahi said, was the dilemma posed by the army fielding a candidate for the presidency.

"What would happen if the army's candidate became president and then failed the nation?" he asked. "Would the army side with the president or the people?"

Meanwhile, Amr Moussa, former presidential candidate and head of the 50-member committee tasked with amending 2012's constitution, said that if El-Sisi does not run for president, the people "will urge him to."

Although the army chief enjoys enormous public appeal, anti-Sisi protesters have maintained a consistent yet dwindling presence since Morsi's removal, deeming the ouster a coup and demanding Morsi's reinstatement.

They also blame El-Sisi for the crackdown on two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo last August that left hundreds dead and even more injured.

Before the dispersal of the sit-ins, El-Sisi had asked Egyptians to go to the streets and mandate the army's actions against "terrorism."

The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, was labelled a terrorist organisation by Egypt's interim authorities after a bomb attack at a security building in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura last December.

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