Egypt’s army chief and Field Marshall, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, resigned as head of the military and defense minister to declare his candidacy for the Egyptian presidential elections. Sisi ousted Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in July 2013 and is widely believed to win the presidential vote.
In a nationwide televised address Sisi declared "I am here before you humbly stating my intention to run for the presidency of the Arab Republic of Egypt, only your support will grant me this great honor". Dressed in military fatigues, he said he would give up the uniform in order to defend the nation.
The announcement came after a meeting of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and Interim President Adly Mansour on Wednesday 26 March. Many see Sisi as the strongman who can bring stability back to Egypt after three years of post-revolutionary turmoil. Egypt’s chief of staff, General Sedki Sobhi, has been sworn in as new defense minister. General Mahmoud Hegazi, former head of the military intelligence will become the next chief-of-staff. SCAF endorsed the long-awaited candidacy of Sisi back in January.
Egypt is expected to hold presidential elections next month. Ahead of the announcement, several different parties declared their support of Sisi. Also, Egypt’s Salafist party, Al-Nour, and the grassroots, Tamarod, have expressed their support for Sisi. The Head of Al-Nour, Jala Mura, urged Egyptians to work together to overcome the current difficulties and said “honorable Egyptian citizen like Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Sisi to enter the presidential race amid the difficult situation experienced in the country”. Tamarod vehemently opposes the Muslim Brotherhood.
The only other candidate for the presidency and head of leftist Al-Tayar Al-Sha’aby movement, Hamdin Sabahi, tweeted he welcomed Sisi’s candidacy. He said “I welcome Sisi’s candidacy, and we seek … democratic elections that [are] transparent and guarantee neutrality of the nation and the will of the people to choose their president freely”. Egypt’s Liberal Party was more ambivalent, declaring Sisi had the right to enter the race as a civilian, just like any other candidate, but opposed the military influence.
However, not all parties support Sisi. Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood vehemently oppose Sisi’s candidacy. They blame him for the violence in Egypt following the ousting of former Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, now on trial and facing the death penalty. A senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood led anti-government protests in Egypt, Magdy Karkar, said “His running will not achieve stability in Egypt. It's true he has many supporters who love him or even worship him. But on the other hand, there are those who hate General el-Sisi and hold him responsible for the blood that has been shed”. Karkar said Sisi candidacy confirms the ousting of Morsi was a coup
In a statement by White House spokeswomen Bernadette Meehan, the US said “As the election process moves forward we urge the Egyptian authorities to ensure that the elections are free, fair, and transparent; that all candidates are able to campaign freely, without fear of harassment or intimidation; and that the views of all the Egyptian people are fully represented". Recently, Egypt has come under a lot of pressure, following the mass death sentence of 529 Muslim Brotherhood members on Monday 24 March.
Analysts say Sisi runs the risk of his popularity plummeting in the face of Egypt’s economic and political challenges. Also, they fear the authoritarian style of Sisi, who would become Egypt’s latest ex-military strongman president.
Source: Ahram, Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera, Daily News Egypt, Reuters, The Guardian.
Author: Koen Migchelbrink