Following months of media speculation and press hints, Abdel Fatah El Sisi, Egypt’s defense minister, announced his resignation from the military to run for the presidency. In a televised speech and still in full military gear, he offered to work tirelessly to address the country’s political, social and economic problems demanding the same from the people.
El Sisi rose to fame last July when he led an army-backed popular uprising that deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. The ensuing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood earned him respect as a tough operator in the eyes of broad segments of the public fed up with the Brotherhood’s ineptitude. It also earned, however, condemnation from Islamists and human right activists for the indiscriminate use of force by the security forces.
The nomination of yet a fourth military man for Egypt’s presidency since the revolution against the monarchy in 1952 supported by the so-called deep state - a cocktail of security agencies, judiciary and media outlets - is likely to polarize the Egyptian society even further. Hardest hit are likely to be the youth who saw their dreams for a participatory democracy following the January 25, 2011 popular uprising dashed aside by the prospects of the return of Mubarak’s chief of military intelligence to lead the country.
With most of the Brotherhood leadership behind bars, El Sisi’s announcement sparked almost instantaneous demonstrations from grassroot Brotherhood members. While the ultra-conservative Islamist Salafi movement welcomed El Sisi’s bid for the presidency in an initial sign of support. Meanwhile, average Egyptians representing the political mainstream, fed up with the political turmoil of the past three years, went on the streets passed mid-night celebrating with fire crackers the promised arrival of the 'new pharaoh.'
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