Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi lays bare his ambition to rule over a divided Egypt

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters, who accuse the army of staging a coup, have held frequent protests calling for his reinstatement

Cairo

Egypt’s army chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, gave his clearest signal yet over the weekend of his interest in becoming president, a move that could turn the clock back to the days when the presidency was controlled by men from the military.

General Sisi, who ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Morsi, last July after mass protests against his one-year rule, is widely expected to seek the top job but has not yet announced plans to run.

“If I run then it must be at the request of the people and with a mandate from my army... We work in a democracy,” he said, speaking at an army seminar in Cairo.

After the army overthrew the Islamist Mr Morsi, it appointed an interim president and outlined a roadmap for democratic transition.

Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters, who accuse the army of staging a coup, have held frequent protests calling for his reinstatement. But security forces have launched a crackdown against the group, arresting thousands on charges of violence.

Egypt is set to hold a two-day referendum on a new constitution beginning tomorrow, a major milestone in the roadmap which will clear the way for presidential and parliamentary elections. Analysts and politicians say it is unlikely that General Sisi will announce plans to run before the referendum is complete.

The consultation marks the first time Egyptians have had a chance to vote since Mr Morsi’s removal and is seen to be as much a public vote of confidence in the roadmap and General Sisi as in the charter itself.

The state Mena news agency quoted the general on Saturday, as he urged Egyptians to “assume national responsibility and turn out in force to vote in the constitutional referendum in order to correct the democratic path and build a modern democratic state”.

There is little doubt the popular General Sisi would win the presidential election. He is seen as a strong man capable of bringing stability to Egypt after more than three years of turmoil. He has had songs dedicated to him and his face appears on chocolates and posters on Egypt’s city streets.

While General Sisi enjoys broad support from Egyptians who are happy to see an end to Islamist rule, he is reviled by Mr Morsi’s supporters, who view him as the mastermind of a bloody military coup against the country’s first freely elected head of state.

General Sisi’s candidacy would further deepen the divisions between the many Egyptians who believe a firm hand is needed to steer the country, and Islamists bearing the brunt of state suppression of dissent.

Security forces have launched a massive crackdown against Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which it calls a terrorist group, arresting its leaders and forcing others underground.

In an interview with pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat on Saturday, the chairman of the constituent assembly which drafted the constitution said he expected General Sisi to run for president in response to popular demand.

“We must adhere to popular opinion who want the man and this is a commission for the man. There is no escape from that... The people say they want Sisi and we must submit to that,” Amr Moussa told Al-Hayat.

Reuters

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: HR Assistant

£17447 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is a leading centre fo...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Case Handler

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Case Handler is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Sales Apprentice

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £20,000 - £60,000

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence