CAIRO: Egypt’s military council has given the army chief, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al Sisi (pictured), a green light to run for president, a security source said.
Sisi deposed elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July after mass unrest against his increasingly arbitrary rule, triggering political upheaval and further street violence in the Arab world’s most populous nation.
Since then he has become hugely popular among Egyptians, who see him as a decisive figure able to stabilise a country which has lurched from one crisis to another since a popular uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
“The top army officials all okayed Sisi running for the presidency,” said the source. Sisi is expected to announce his candidacy within days.
Hours before the top generals approved Sisi contesting the election, the presidency announced he had been promoted to field marshal from general, in what security officials said was a sign he is about to declare his candidacy for the presidency.
“The decision was expected and it is the first step before the resignation of the general and his candidacy announcement, which is now expected very soon,” said a security official.
In order for Sisi to contest the election, he has to resign from his post as defence minister and from the military.
After toppling Mursi, Sisi unveiled a political roadmap that promised free and fair elections in Egypt, which is of great strategic importance because of its 1979 peace treaty with Israel and control of the Suez Canal.
But the Muslim Brotherhood accuses him of staging a coup and holds him responsible for what it says are widespread human rights abuses in a security crackdown that has killed nearly 1,000 Islamists. Top Brotherhood leaders are all in jail.
Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaa El Din, a moderate in the army-backed government, tendered his resignation yesterday.
Bahaa El Din, a lawyer, had called for a more inclusive political process in a country that is growing less tolerant of dissent by the day.
“A crucial stage of the roadmap is now over. It required keeping a unified front and avoiding disputes in order for the nation to emerge from constitutional and economic collapse,” said a letter posted on Bahaa El Din’s Facebook page said.
“Now that we start a new phase where the country is preparing for successive elections ... I ask that you accept my resignation.”
Bahaa El Din is in charge of an economic team that includes the ministers of finance, trade and industry, supply, planning and investment, as well as the governor of the central bank.