Egypt’s Sisi: From field marshal to pharaoh?

Army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was promoted to field marshal, and has been given a mandate by the military to run for president

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Army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was promoted on Monday to field marshal, and has been given a mandate by the military to run for president. Despite his promise that the military does not seek to rule Egypt, he seems primed to ascend to the position. If in power, his backers say his status as a national hero will help him rebuild the country.

“He’s a true leader who won the trust of Egyptians, thanks to which he’ll be able to make all institutions work in harmony,” Nabil Sharaf el-Din, a specialist in Islamic affairs at Al-Ahram Center, told Al Arabiya News. By being a man of “soft power” who has great popularity, Sisi will be able to “lead, reshape and purify” the country, whether it is from the Muslim Brotherhood or corrupt people, Sharaf el-Din added.

Egyptian analysts say Sisi as president may be what the country needs to stabilize a deteriorating domestic and economic situation. “He’ll come up with a national project which will help the country move forward and improve,” Mohammad el-Shaikh, a journalist with the Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Watan, told Al Arabiya News. “Hopefully, he’ll strengthen the country’s economy and bring back stability to the country,” Shaikh added.

One sign of Sisi’s influence is the climb of Egypt's stock market to a 44-month high after the army chief was given the green light to run for president by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Reuters reported.

However, some analysts say Sisi will face criticism from the West. If he becomes president, “Sisi will confirm what foreign countries said: that the Egyptian military overthrew [former President Mohammad] Mursi and led a crackdown on the Brotherhood,” Sameh Rashed, author and political analyst for Al-Ahram newspaper, told Al Arabiya News.

Some say Sisi’s plan to tackle terrorism and violence could signal a return to the era of politics under former President Hosni Mubarak, with power concentrated in the hands of one man. “To ensure security in Egypt and fight terrorism, Sisi will be restricting many freedoms,” Rashed said. “All the negative sides of the Mubarak era will be amplified if Sisi becomes president, especially freedom of expression.”

Sisi must be cautious, when choosing his government, not to become Egypt’s new pharaoh, Rashed said. “He needs to surround himself with a government that doesn’t only praise him and his achievements,” Rashed said, adding that this is a bad habit in Egyptian politics.

On Sunday, interim President Adly Mansour announced the alteration of a transitional roadmap, saying presidential elections will take place before those for parliament. “By changing the roadmap and having Sisi in power, Egypt might face a longer transitional period and stay in its unstable and blurry phase for longer,” Shaikh said.

Fears over a military leader taking power are causing concern. “The apprehension is that Sisi chooses to favor military-backed governance,” Sharaf el-Din said. “As much as Egypt needs a military leader to put the country back on track, it also needs to keep the right balance between the military and civilians,” he added.

However, Shaikh said Sisi will “ probably make sure that the army monitors the political scene from the outside, as was the case during Mursi’s days, as it’s better than intervening in politics on an ongoing basis.”

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