The Egyptian army denied claims first reported Thursday in a Kuwaiti newspaper that army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had announced his candidacy for president.
A few hours after the news was reported by Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah and ran widely in the international press, the army said the paper had "misinterpreted" Sisi's intentions.
The newspaper had quoted Sisi saying he had no alternative but to meet the Egyptian people's wishes for him to run.
“I will not reject the demand,” said Sisi, who is seen as a decisive figure who can ease political turmoil, which has hit Egypt’s economy hard. “I will present this to the Egyptian people to renew confidence through free voting.”
If Sisi does announce his candidacy, the move would almost certainly lead to increased political tensions and anger amongst Islamist militants who have stepped up attacks on the state since Sisi ousted Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi in July.
It will also deepen concerns that the military will again dominate Egypt, crushing hopes of a civilian democracy born out of popular uprisings during the 2011 Arab Spring. The army leadership promoted Sisi to field marshal last month, effectively throwing its support behind his candidacy.
Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement accuse Sisi of staging a coup and undermining democratic gains made since a popular uprising ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
After deposing Morsi, Sisi unveiled a political roadmap meant to lead to free and fair elections.
But under his watch, security forces have stifled dissent and mounted one of the fiercest crackdowns against the Brotherhood, drawing fire from human rights groups.,About 1,000 Brotherhood members have been killed in the streets, top leaders have been jailed and the group has been declared a terrorist organisation.
The Brotherhood, which says it is a peaceful organisation, has been largely driven underground. But it is resilient and is likely to keep challenging Sisi.
Al Qaeda-inspired militant groups based in the Sinai have been waging an insurgency that has gained momentum since Sisi installed a government. Hundreds of security forces have been killed in the largely lawless peninsula.
The militants have also struck elsewhere, including Cairo.
Western diplomats say Sisi had resisted running for president until recently, fearful that managing Egypt’s multitude of problems would be a daunting task.
‘No magic wand’
Sisi has become increasingly popular in Egypt. There are Sisi posters, T-shirts and even chocolate bars. He is portrayed as a saviour on state and private television channels.
But Sisi is aware that Egyptians, with the help of the army, ousted two presidents in three years. If he doesn’t deliver, mass protests could erupt again.
“We will not play with people’s dreams or tell them we have a magic wand,” said Sisi in the interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper. “I will tell them let’s join hands and work together to build this country of 90 million.”
The economy has been kept afloat through political upheaval with money sent by Saudi Arabia, the United Emirates and Kuwait, who are suspicious of the Brotherhood. The government has yet to come up with a long-term plan to boost finances.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)
Date created : 2014-02-06