News / Middle East

    Egypt Military Officers Back Army Chief for President

    FILE - An image grab taken from Egyptian state TV shows Egypt's army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi giving a live broadcast calling for public rallies this week to give him a mandate to fight "terrorism and violence," as Mohamed Morsi's supporters con
    FILE - An image grab taken from Egyptian state TV shows Egypt's army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi giving a live broadcast calling for public rallies this week to give him a mandate to fight "terrorism and violence," as Mohamed Morsi's supporters con
    Reuters
    After months of turmoil in Egypt, military officers are pushing popular army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sissi  to run for president, after the 2011 uprising had inspired hopes for democratic change in a country long dominated by generals.
     
    Sissi ousted Egypt's first freely-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, the man who appointed him, in July after mass protests against the Islamist leader's rule.
     
    Since then Egypt, whose political transition has repeatedly stumbled, has been rocked by near-daily protests, bombings and clashes in which hundreds have died in the worst civil violence in the nation's modern history.
     
    A military man back in power would alarm international human rights groups and Western allies such as the United States, and raise the prospect of more violence by Sissi's foes.
     
    Yet senior military officers have over the past three months told Sissi of their fears about the political upheaval in a series of meetings, army sources said.
     
    “We told him that we need to maintain stability. He is needed for Egypt and the people love him and want him. Besides, who else can run but him? There is no one else as popular as him,” said one army officer, who asked not to be named.
     
    President Hosni Mubarak, a former airforce commander, often cited “stability” as a concern as he crushed dissent for 30 years until his fall. He threw opponents in jail, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists.
     
    The anti-Mubarak revolt, led by liberal activists joined by Islamists, had raised hopes of civilian democracy after six decades of rule by military men. But the army, which installed a government after Morsi's fall, is running the show again.
     
    Since the military takeover, human rights groups have accused security forces of widespread abuses. Hundreds of Islamists have been killed in protests and clashes and thousands jailed, including Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders.
     
    But the measures have failed to end unrest, and attacks by Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula near Israel have risen sharply since Morsi's demise. The turmoil has hammered tourism and investment in the most populous Arab state.

    Sissi mania

    Yet Sissi has emerged as a popular figure. Posters of him with past Egyptian military heroes who became presidents are ubiquitous. Chocolate bars molded to his likeness and jewelry carrying his image are sold on the streets.
     
    Many Egyptians believe Sissi would win if he ran for the presidency.
     
    An army major said he and many of his colleagues back Sissi.
     
    “We disagree in politics all the time. We had different views under Mubarak and under Morsi but now we are unified on Sissi,” he said.
     
    In media interviews, Sissi has sent mixed signals on whether he would run, first saying he does not seek power, and more recently keeping the possibility open.
     
    Several military officers interviewed by Reuters noted that Sissi has become more receptive to the idea over the past month.
     
    “Before he used to say 'No way'. Now he says 'Let's wait and see...If that's what the country needs and the people want, we can't let them down',” another senior officer said.
     
    “Until now he has not given a direct answer about whether he would run but we can tell he is listening to us and not dismissing the idea.”
     
    Promises of democracy
     
    Sissi appeared on national television the night he toppled Morsi on July 3 and announced a political roadmap designed to bring elections by early next year.
     
    The interim government chose a 50-member committee to re-write a constitution that was passed by a referendum last year.
     
    The army, which has a representative on the committee, has pressed for special privileges for the armed forces, such as the power to choose the defense minister, committee members say.
     
    Sissi, the former head of Mubarak's military intelligence, has said he would stay out of the state's affairs. But he regularly meets with leading Egyptian and Arab officials.
     
    “I'm worried about a possible army return to power given the signs I'm seeing on the streets. The army will either run (a candidate) directly or back a candidate,” said human rights activist Gamal Eid, describing Sissi as a “real politician”.
     
    When Egypt celebrated the October 6 war anniversary, it was Sissi, not the interim president, who addressed Egyptians. In an impassioned speech he promised to make Egypt a world leader, during a ceremony reminiscent of those held in the Mubarak era.
     
    “Don't you think that will happen? It will. But that needs patience and loyal work,” said Sissi, seen weeping as he listened to patriotic songs.
     
    Although Egyptians elected Morsi, many became disillusioned with the Muslim Brotherhood during his one-year rule. Morsi was accused of seeking sweeping powers, sidelining opponents and mismanaging the economy, allegations his Brotherhood denies.
     
    Many people see the military as the only option. Liberals and leftists are deeply divided and weak and have failed to establish an effective grassroots presence. Some have even said they would endorse Sissi as president.
     
    A youth and liberal activists campaign called “Complete Your Favor” said it had collected 15 million signatures for petitions urging Sissi to run for president.
     
    Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a prominent activist who spent several years in jail under Mubarak, endorsed the campaign and described Sissi as Egypt's “savior from darkness”.
     
    Although the number of signatures could not be verified, Sissi's popularity is palpable on the streets.
     
    “I love Sissi, he is my president whether he runs or not. He is young, tough and also religious. He is like all Egyptians in one,” said Mona Ahmed, a 63-year-old housewife.
     
    Sissi, 58, is often compared to army officer-turned- president Gamal Abdel Nasser, a popular nationalist who toppled the British-backed monarchy in 1952.
     
    “The army does not want power and neither does General Sissi, but for the sake of Egypt, its national security and stability at this critical stage, compromises need to be taken and tough decisions need to be made,” another army officer said.
     
    “If the people want that and there is no other option but for General Sissi to run, then he should do it.”

    You May Like

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    October 26, 2013 10:02 AM
    all "arab" countries are going to waste another 100 years oppressing their own "peoples" and completely destroying whatever they accomplished the previous 1000 years. Iraq, Libya, Syria,Egypt,and on and on.

    by: lominyo jeremiah from: Juba/south Sudan
    October 24, 2013 3:12 AM
    I support the idea.Sissi dont allow the muslim brotherhood to rule Egypt because they are terrorists who have does not value the life of human beings especially they are the enemies of cheistians ones they succed to rule Egypt they will kill all your own brothers christian faith. Brother Sissi you will go un opposed to be the next president of Egypt.

    by: Hassan from: Suez
    October 23, 2013 6:36 PM
    Very funny. A dictator ship with an "elected" General. Why you could not get beyond to make clear that it is about money and power. The army controls most businesses and they do not want the ordinary people to disturb their business. Thyts why they toppled the elected government und killed thousands of their fellow country men. They know that they will be punished soon.
    In Response

    by: Tay from: Alex
    October 23, 2013 9:05 PM
    Those who kill & murder the people are the Moslem brotherhood . They make explosions and fires everyday. They throw people from roofs. They are criminals. They are terrorists. El- Kaedda and all the terror organizations came out of those Moslem brotherhood .
    Our only hope for stability is the Sisi. He is our HERO and our hope.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora