Egypt's El-Sisi bids military farewell, says he will run for presidency

Ahram Online, Wednesday 26 Mar 2014

Announcement on state-run TV confirms months of speculation regarding the former army chief's presidential hopes

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Egyptian army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (second from right) with Egyptian delegation, February 2014(Photo courtesy of Egypt's army spokesman's official Facebook page)

Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi resigned from the military on Wednesday and announced that he was determined to run in Egypt's upcoming presidential elections, slated to begin 30 March.

"Today is the last time you’ll see me wearing this [military] uniform. I was honoured to wear it to defend the nation and today I am also leaving it behind to defend the nation,” said El-Sisi, stressing that he has been a member of the armed forces for over 45 years.

The last few years in Egypt have proved "that no one could be president without the people’s will,” he said.

"My determination to run in the election does not bar others from their right to run. I will be happy if whoever the people choose succeeds,” he said, adding that he hopes for "a nation for all without exclusion.”

Any Egyptian who has not been convicted by the law, El-Sisi said, is unconditionally welcomed to be an active partner in the future of Egypt.

He said that he does not intend to "have a traditional campaign but rather a comprehensive vision for the nation to rise,” and called on his supporters not "to spend a lot” for his campaign.

The presidential hopeful also expressed his determination to fight for a "fearless Egypt."

"Egypt is rich with its resources and people [and yet] it relies on donations and assistance. This is not acceptable. Egyptians deserve much better," he said.

El-Sisi pointed out that Egypt faces serious economic, social, political and security-related challenges that existed before the 25 January 2011 revolution and have continued after the 30 June 2013 protests which led to the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

Egyptians deserve to live with dignity, security and freedom, he said, in addition to having access to jobs, food, education, medicine and housing.

"Production must start again in all state apparatuses. Our mission is to restore Egypt,” he said.

Before breaking the widely anticipated news, El-Sisi met with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to reportedly submit his resignation and discuss his potential successor as defence minister.

Chief of Staff Sedki Sobhi was promoted to the rank of colonel general by interim President Adly Mansour in the meeting preceding El-Sisi's address, a rank historically held by Egyptian defence ministers.

El-Sisi's announcement came hours after Mansour arrived in Cairo from Kuwait, where he was attending the Arab League summit.

The 59-year-old El-Sisi, who was appointed defence minister in August 2012 by then-president Mohamed Morsi, had to resign from the military in order to run in Egypt's upcoming presidential poll, as per Egyptian law which stipulates that military personnel are not allowed to enter politics.

Speculation around his running intensified after SCAF issued a statement in January, empowering El-Sisi to run for president.

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

Last Saturday, Amr Moussa, renowned politician and head of the 50-Member Committee that drafted Egypt’s 2014 Constitution, revealed the main aspects of El-Sisi’s electoral platform.

According to Moussa, El-Sisi is concerned with building the state on a modern basis and in line with the 2014 national charter.

"The [electoral] platform will determine the framework of the candidate’s vision to build and establish prosperity for the people while respecting the freedoms and rights granted in the new constitution,” said Moussa, adding that the plan also includes a reformulating of "the development and investment map" in Egypt.

He further added that prominent figures and experts are involved in discussions on the electoral platform.

A recent survey conducted by Egyptian polling centre Baseera said 51 percent of Egyptians would vote for El-Sisi, while 45 percent of Egyptians said they were undecided.

Presidential hopefuls in this year's elections — Egypt's second since the January 2011 uprising — will be able to apply for candidacy with the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) on 30 March, according to predictions.

Hamdeen Sabbahi, a Nasserist politician who came third in the 2012 presidential elections, is the only candidate to have so far announced his intention to run in the elections, expected this spring.

Sabbahi said he would run regardless of El-Sisi's decision.

Other candidates who ran in the last presidential race decided not to run this time, either in support of El-Sisi or in protest at a controversial article in the presidential elections law that leaves PEC's decisions immune to appeal.

According to Mansour, a new Egyptian president will be named before 17 July.

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