Sisi to run for president upon ‘popular demand’

Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he could run for president; it is the first sign that he might enter the presidential race

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Egypt’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will run for president if people demanded him to be the country’s new leader, and if the military supports such mandate, state owned al-Ahram newspaper reported on Saturday.

“If I nominate myself, there must be a popular demand, and a mandate from my army,” al-Ahram quoted Sisi as saying during a military-organized function.

While Sisi is highly expected to run for president, he didn’t make an explicit announcement about his intentions, making Saturday’s statement as the first indication that he might enter the presidential race.

However, Al Arabiya’s Cairo correspondent Randa Abu el-Azm said the final decision on whether Sisi will run for presidency has not been made yet by him, and his statement was merely a reply to people who want to see him as the new premier.

Sisi led the army to the overthrow Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on July 3, following nationwide protests demanding the latter’s ouster.

The military general gained popularity after the toppling of Mursi as he was seen by his supporters as a unifying figure, who was able to prevent a civil war breaking out in Egypt.

Meanwhile, during the military-organized function, Sisi urged Egyptians to vote in next week’s constitutional referendum.

He described the passage of the referendum as a step on the way to progress.

Al-Ahram reported the audience applauding Sisi’s comments and chanting “we are all with you.”

A big turnout and a strong “yes” vote would give legitimacy and a boost to the political plan endorsed by Sisi, which called for subsequent presidential and parliamentary elections.

Beleaguered by three years of instability following the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak in the 2011 uprising, many Egyptians yearn for a strong leader who would fix the economy and restore security.

Despite Sisi’s wide support base, Mursi’s followers accuse the army chief of leading a “coup” against the country’s first freely elected and civilian president after only a single, but turbulent, year in office.

More than 1,000 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed in street clashes, and thousands have been imprisoned in a crackdown on Mursi’s supporters following his overthrow.

(With AFP, Reuters and AP)

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