Egypt’s Army Chief, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, says he May Run for President

A supporter of General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi wears his picture around his neck in Cairo, Egypt. (Photograph: Haisam Mahgoub/Demotix/Corbis)
A supporter of General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi wears his picture around his neck in Cairo, Egypt. (Photograph: Haisam Mahgoub/Demotix/Corbis)

Egypt‘s army chief has given his clearest indication yet that he will run for president. General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the man who ousted Mohamed Morsi after mass protests last July, appeared to tell military colleagues on Saturday that he would view a strong yes vote in this week’s constitutional referendum as a mandate to run for office.

“If I run for the presidency it must be by the request of the people and with a mandate from my army,” Sisi said, according to Egypt’s state-run news agency, in response to a question at an army lecture. “When Egyptians say something, we obey and I will never turn my back on Egypt.”

Sisi’s comments came three days before the start of the referendum on a new constitution that officials and local media have largely portrayed as an informal plebiscite on the direction the country has taken since Morsi’s overthrow. The timing of Sisi’s intervention suggested he sees strong support for the constitution as a sign for him to join the contest.

For months, Sisi has refused to confirm or deny rumours that he will seek the presidency. His uncertain intentions have made it difficult for others to declare their own presidential ambitions. Few are willing to openly declare their opposition to a man many praise for overthrowing Morsi, and who is expected to win any contest he enters.

“I think if Sisi runs, and I think that’s most likely now, he will win in the first round,” argued Sameh Seif Elyazal, a retired army general, and director of the al-Gomhoria centre for political and security studies. Speaking to the Guardian this week, Elyazal said that only Sisi had the popularity to unite Egyptians through what was expected to be a tough period.

Support for Sisi is clearly visible across much of Egypt. Posters and banners of the general adorn many Egyptian streets, and his supporters claim to have gathered millions of signatures calling for him to run. And many who protested against the authoritarian Hosni Mubarak in 2011 might now welcome a new strongman as president, exhausted by the three years of turmoil that have followed Mubarak’s fall.

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The Guardian

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