Egypt’s army chief set for Prez bid after military backing

Cairo: Egypt’s powerful army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, looked set to run for presidency after the army today backed his bid for the top post.

The army mandated his presidential bid, hours after interim president Adly Mansour issued a presidential decree promoting 59-year-old Sisi to the rank of Field Marshal, the highest in the military. Egypt’s army rarely promotes senior officers to the rank of a field marshal.

“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces by consensus mandated the defence minister (Sisi) to stand in presidential elections,” state-run MENA news agency reported.

Sisi’s popularity soared after July last year, when he announced the ouster of Morsi amid nationwide mass protests against the Islamist president’s troubled one-year rule. As a result, a number of campaigns have sprung up to pressure Sisi to run for the presidency in the upcoming elections due by the end of April.

Sisi is tipped to easily win in the polls with no serious rivals.

While he had initially announced he would not seek power, Sisi has more recently said the possibility is open, Ahram Online reported.

If Sisi runs and wins in the presidential polls it would mark the return of an army man to the helm of power, three years after Egyptians revolted against president Hosni Mubarak who was an ex-air force chief.

Mansour yesterday announced that presidential elections will be held before parliamentary polls — an amendment to the transitional roadmap which was agreed upon by various political forces after Morsi’s ouster.

According to Mansour’s decree, the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) should begin procedures to hold the polls in no less than 30 days and no more than 90 days following the successful passage of the country’s newly-amended constitution.

The constitution was put into effect on January 18 after a two-day referendum on January 14-15 which yielded an overwhelming 98.1 per cent majority approval of the charter.

Accordingly, the presidential polls should take place between February 17 and April 18.

Tens of thousands converged to Tahrir square and elsewhere in the country on Saturday to celebrate the third anniversary of the January 25 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. Thousands carried banners and posters urging Sisi to run for presidency.

Egypt has witnessed a steep rise in violence, with blasts now a regular occurrence, since the army toppled Morsi. Nearly 50 people were killed and 247 injured in violence on the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising.