EGYPTIAN army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi yesterday announced he would run for the position of president if the people asked him to and if the army backed him.
“If I nominate myself, there must be a popular demand, and a mandate from my army … We work in a democracy”, state paper Al-Ahram quoted him as saying to politicians in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.
Reports of his latest comments came just days before a referendum on a new constitution, the first in a series of polls the military-backed government said would restore elected rule in the wake of the army ousting Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July. Morsi was the first democratically elected president in Egypt’s history.
Morsi is now facing criminal charges, along with many others from the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood movement to which he belongs.
His trial had been due to open last week but was adjourned until 1 February after officials said bad weather had prevented Morsi being flown from his prison in Alexandria to the court in Cairo.
After the army overthrew Morsi amid mass protests in Cairo against his one-year rule, it appointed an interim president and outlined a roadmap for democratic transition.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters of Morsi accuse the army of staging a coup d’etat and have held frequent protests calling for his reinstatement. In turn, the security forces have launched a sweeping crackdown against the Brotherhood.
Egypt is set to hold a referendum on a new constitution on Tuesday and Wednesday, a major milestone in that roadmap towards presidential and parliamentary elections.
Commentators have claimed Sisi would easily win any election. A state news agency quoted him as urging Egyptians to “assume national responsibility and turn out in force to vote in the referendum in order to correct the democratic path and build a modern democratic state”.