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.”

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    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.

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