Egyptian army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared his bid to run in the country’s presidential elections on Wednesday, in a speech that garnered widespread support and some objections.
Reactions from political leaders and parties began pouring in shortly after Sisi resigned from defense minister in a pre-recorded speech.
Egypt’s Salafist party al-Nour and the anti-Muslim Brotherhood grassroots movement Tamarod expressed their support of Sisi.
Secretary-general of the al-Nour party, Jalal Mura, told reporters Wednesday that Sisi was "an honorable Egyptian citizen," and that the group supported his presidential bid "amid the difficult situation experienced in the country.”
Mura urged Egyptians to cooperate with each other in order to “exit this quagmire and for Egypt to return to its national, regional and international position.”
The al-Nour party has been subjected to criticism by some Islamists for backing the army’s July 3 ouster of Islamist President Mohammad Mursi and the constitution drafted by pro-military panel in January.
Meanwhile, Tamarod, a key movement behind collecting signatories calling for anti-Mursi protests on June 30, gave its full-fledged support to Sisi in a statement released on Wednesday.
“Our choice for a figure like the marshal [Sisi] is representative of a big section of the Egyptian people,” it said.
However, London-based Muslim Brotherhood leader Ibrahim Muni told Al Arabiya News that “there will be no stability or security if Sisi wins elections.”
Soon after Mursi’s ouster, the military-backed interim government quashed the Muslim Brotherhood movement, arresting many of its members and senior members.
Despite criticism by human rights groups over its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt did not decelerate its suppression of the Islamist movement. Recently, an Egypt court gave death sentences to more than 500 Muslim Brotherhood members, compelling the United States to denounce the move.
Leftist presidential hopeful Hamdin Sabahi, who said he won’t be seeking Islamist votes, welcomed Sisi’s candidacy in a tweet.
“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.”
Sabahi, one of the prominent leaders of the National Salvation Front, was among the politicians involved in the toppling of Mursi.
The spokesman for Sabahi’s campaign, Masoum Marzouk, urged for "equal" opportunity to be given to the leftist leader in a television address to Egyptians on Wednesday night.
The liberal party, formerly headed by the Nobel laureate Mohammad ElBaradei, said “Sisi has the right to enter the race as civilian citizen after resigning from his military position.”
But the party, now led by Hala Shukrallah, said all candidates must have an equal opportunity.
“We demand him [Sisi] to be like other candidates not backed by the country’s institution.”
Reactions to Sisi’s long-awaited presidential bid announcement set social media ablaze shortly after his speech on Wednesday.
Egyptians took to Facebook and Twitter to express how they felt following Sisi’s resignation as defense minister and his declaration to surrender to “popular demand” urging him to occupy Cairo’s top post.
He declared that Wednesday was the last day he would appear in military uniform, saying “I give up the uniform to defend the nation.”
Sisi the ‘savior’
The powerful army chief, who was behind the ouster of Mursi last July, has become a popular public figure in Egypt. Many Egyptians refer to him as the “savior” from the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Mursi hails from.
“Finally a great news,” said one Twitter user, commenting on Sisi’s speech.
“Mr. Abdel Fattah el #Sisi .. his excellency the next president of #Egypt .. and .. my personal hero,” a Facebook user said.
To give the support musical flavor, one Twitter user reshuffled the lyrics of a famous Enrique Iglesias song, saying: “I can be your Sisi baby… I can kick the Mursi away… You are the light … of my eyes!”
Back in his home town of central Cairo, Sisi’s science and mathematics teacher, who chose to be known simply as “Mrs. Aziza” in the interview, told Al Arabiya News Channel that the military chief was an “outstanding student” and will “succeed in the elections, god willing.”
“A melancholy tone is apparent [in the abandonment of] the military suit…don’t be sad…Egypt is more precious!” said Hazem Abdel Azim, an Egyptian politician. Abdel Azim has more than 400,000 followers on Twitter.
Coptic activist Michel Mounir praised the military chief’s speech, saying: “Sisi succeeded in touching the real problems of the Egyptians.”
Sisi ‘mastermind behind coup’
While some received the news with positive reactions, other Egyptians aired their view that Sisi’s presidential bid proves claims by the Muslim Brotherhood that the army orchestrated a “coup” against Mursi.
“Sisi officially announces his presidency bid which makes it an official coup,” said Twitter user Gigi Ibrahim.
“Sisi quits to run for presidency… Shocker? I guess no one leads a coup so that another guy becomes the president, no?” said another Twitter user.
“Al-Sisi resigns from Egypt military to run for presidency - He was already a president since the coup!” said another.
Prominent Egyptian poet Abdul Rahman Yousef condemned Sisi’s announcement on his Facebook page, saying “Remember this day very well, 26 March 2014. It is the beginning of the end.”