Egypt’s military chief to consider standing in elections to select Morsi successor later in year
Gen Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi urges Egyptians to vote in force for new constitution
Gen Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi: “If I run for the presidency, it would be at the request of the people and with a mandate from my army, as we work within a democracy.” Photograph: EPA/Egyptian army
Egypt’s military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has said he will consider standing for president if he is given a popular mandate as Egyptians prepare for the sixth round of voting since the 2011 uprising toppled president Hosni Mubarak.
“If I run for the presidency, it would be at the request of the people and with a mandate from my army, as we work within a democracy,” he said. The general urged Egyptians to do “their national duty” by voting in the January 14th-15th referendum on the new constitution.
He said voting would restore Egypt “to the democratic path and build a modern democratic state that satisfies all Egyptians”. A large turnout and a solid majority Yes vote will be seen as an expression of the popular will in favour of his candidacy and a plebiscite on the roadmap drawn up after the ouster in July of president Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood stalwart now on trial for abuses during his year in office.
The roadmap calls for presidential and parliamentary elections if the new constitution is approved. Several groups, including By the Command of the People” and a number of media outlets have been lobbying Gen Sisi to run for election, expected mid-year. He became a popular figure during last spring’s Tamarod (Rebel) campaign to oust Mr Morsi.
This is the second call from the general for a directive. On July 26th, tens of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to express solidarity with the post-Morsi transition government and to sanction a crackdown on “violence and terrorism”.
In mid-August, the security forces dispersed Brotherhood protest camps at Rabaa al-Adawiya in Nasr City and Nahda Square in Giza, at the cost of 900 lives. Since then, two thousand Brotherhood members and virtually its entire senior leadership have been detained and a ban has been imposed on unlicensed demonstrations.
Ehab Samir, adviser to the president of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, told The Irish Times Gen Sisi “will win because he is a national hero . . . [People feel] we need someone like him for a term” of four years. “The army is an integral part of what Egypt is all about, the only strong institution left. Egypt is leaning toward holding the presidential election before the parliamentary poll. We need to have a president, a head of state elected to lead the country . . . People want to see something happen. We cannot afford to remain in limbo.”
Businesswoman Dalia agreed. “There are no tourists. Luxor and Aswan are deserted. The hotels are empty, people eat at home rather than in restaurants. The economy is in crisis. We have to move on.”
She expressed exasperation with liberals who plan to boycott or vote no in the referendum or express fear the military will return to power.
“The situation has changed since the fall of Mubarak three years ago . . . One-man rule is out. There are checks and balances in the constitution.
“This is the best constitution we could get. Once we have a parliament we can put pressure on it to amend provisions we don’t like.”