Egypt’s June 30 protests drove the chief the armed forces, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to oust President Mohammad Mursi. The army’s intervention was characteristically “coup-like.” Sisi is aware of this problem and is also aware of the threats and complications it poses.
There was no option but to topple Mursi, the alternative would have been civil war. Sisi previously made several attempts to convince Mursi to hold a referendum on early elections. Mursi initially agreed, but changed his mind after mounting pressure from the Muslim Brotherhood’s general guide, Khairat al-Shater.
Taking decisive action was therefore a must to avoid civil war, something the Brotherhood threatened prior to June 30.
The question of who should command authority in Egypt resurfaced after the ouster of Mursi and clashes with his supporters. The political roadmap announced by Sisi on July 3 was not enough of a definitive answer.
The subsequent crisis forced Egyptians to address the question of holding early presidential elections. Speculation emerged that Sisi may run for the presidency, but he repeatedly rejected the idea saying he prefers to be remembered as the man who saved the country and the state.
However, when he was recently asked the same question during an interview with al-Masry al-Youm, he said: “The will of God will prevail.”
If Sisi runs for presidency, he will be the undisputed president. Speculation foresees that if he runs for presidency, he will garner between 70 percent to 75 percent of the vote during the first round alone - a percentage no one but he can attain.
Sisi is currently the most popular figure in Egypt’s political scene. Other potential candidates have even said that they will not run against him.
Some are willing to support him without any reservations while others are ready to question his commitments and agenda. Some are worried that a military figure’s rise to power predicates the “militarizing of society.”
If Sisi becomes president, three challenges will confront him. The first one is linked to security. The question is: How can security be restored without Egyptians losing their civil rights? Sisi can, no doubt, secure the country. However, he may lose popularity if he fails to balance the quest for security with politics. This is a matter which Sisi has not yet addressed considering his post as a military leader.
The second challenge is social and the question is: How committed is Sisi to the issue of social justice, considered one of the major factors in the ousting of two presidents. Sisi is aware of the nature of the economic problems plaguing Egypt, he knows that decisive measures must be taken to reform economy. But who will pay the price?
The third challenge is political, the question is: How can a popular political bloc be established as the basis of new authority. A political bloc which espouses aims and tools that do not contradict the January and June revolutions. The civil and Islamic movements have fractured. People thus bet on men rather than on agendas. They bet on personal characteristics and not political visions and on the army’s symbolism and not the politicians’ struggles.
Some are demanding that Sisi does not run so he remains chief of the army and thus remains a deterrent against any future president who might act against the people’s wishes. The idea itself includes a plan to clash with any possible president. But at the same time, not running for presidency will lead to dual loyalties in the structure of the new regime. This too will raise disputes. The safest scenario, it seems, is that Sisi rises to power because through his presidential position he can guarantee keeping the army separate from politics.
Sisi is a strategist. The sentiments which appear in his short speeches do not reflect his personality or how he thinks. If he fails to rise up to his popularity, then he will find himself in a crisis, thus decreasing his great popularity.
If he doesn’t run for presidency, three former military figures aspire to become presidents. They are: Ahmad Shafiq, Sami Anan and Murad Muwafi.
All three men think Egypt needs a president who hails from a military background. It’s an assumption which is not based on any facts. Sisi himself will not support a military candidate for the post.
What is most likely, unless Sisi himself becomes president, is that Egypt’s next leader will not hail from a military background.