Supporters of Egypt's Army Chief General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi hold his image aloft in downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square, 19 November, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt's Rebel campaign (Tamarod) has urged Egyptian Army Chief General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi not to run for presidency, a shift in policy as the group had initially voiced its backing to his potential presidential bid.
Despite earlier backing, Hassan Shahine, spokesman of the youth group -- which had spearheaded mass nationwide protests that culminated in president Mohamed Morsi's removal by the army early July -- had recently distanced the movement from such a clear stance with repeatedly equivocal answers.
In a Tuesday statement, however, the group counselled El-Sisi, Egypt's defence minister, against running for the post and called for a presidential vote to precede parliamentary polls.
The movement's chief demand, launched in a petition which circulated the nation's streets, was to force Morsi to hold early presidential elections, "and thus presidential polls must come first," the statement said.
A draft constitution finalised early December did not stipulate a voting sequence, leaving the decision of which poll to hold first, or whether to hold both simultaneously, at the discretion of interim president Adly Mansour.
The charter, expected to pass in a referendum slated for 14-15 January, states the first election must begin at least one month after the adoption of the constitution, and the second poll within six months.
"Abdel Fattah El-Sisi should not run for the presidency to maintain his image as a popular hero who fulfilled his duty toward the nation," added the statement.
Army Chief El-Sisi -- perceived as the country's de facto ruler -- has grown into a popular icon since leading Morsi's ouster, with his supporters and numerous politicians calling on him to run for president.
Although he has sent mixed messages in media interviews on his intention to run, first saying he does not seek the post and more recently keeping the possibility open, it is widely speculated that he would win if he decided to contend for the presidency.
Hamdeen Sabahi, a Nasserist leader who came third in last year's presidential poll, was the only politician defeated by Morsi, the country's first democratically-elected president, to declare his candidacy in the upcoming poll.
He had urged El-Sisi to stick to military matters, yet said he would respect the will of political forces if they backed him for the presidency.