Egyptian army chief Abdul Fatah Sisi on Wednesday declared his candidacy for a presidential election he is expected to win easily.
“I am here before you humbly stating my intention to run for the presidency of the Arab Republic of Egypt,” Sisi said in a televised address.
Among his supporters, the field marshal, who is due to step down from his military posts in order to contest the election, is wildly popular. Most Egyptian media have for months lionized him as the only man capable of restoring order after more than two years of political unrest. But his victory would turn back the clock to before Egypt’s 2011 “Arab Spring” uprising that forced autocrat Hosni Mubarak, a former air force commander, to resign.
Sisi was appointed as army chief by the former Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2012. A year later, he led a coup against Morsi following months of intensifying protests against the majoritarian government of the Muslim Brotherhood which had come to power through free elections after the fall of Mubarak.
The Islamist movement has since been declared illegal and Morsi is in prison, awaiting trial. Sisi has led a crackdown of Muslim Brotherhood. Hundreds of its members have been arrested. On Monday, 529 were sentenced to death.
Many liberal and secular Egyptians, who opposed the Muslim Brotherhood, favor Sisi’s candidacy even if his presidency could see a return to prerevolutionary days when the military was effectively in control of the Arab world’s most populous country.
Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi is the only other declared candidate so far. He finished third in the 2012 election.
To facilitate Sisi’s rise to power, Egypt’s interim president, the former chief justice Adli Mansour, said earlier this year that presidential elections would be called before a new parliamentary vote, reneging on an earlier promise to hold the elections in the opposite order. The presidential vote is expected in July.
Three years after Mubarak was forced out of office, most Egyptians seems to long for a return to stability before anything else. Their economic prospects have only dimmed further since the “Arab Spring” began — which was inspired, in part, by high youth unemployment in the first place — and their country is regularly shaken by bombings and street violence.
In his speech, Sisi cautioned against Egyptians’ high hopes, saying, “I cannot make miracles. Rather, I propose hard work and self denial.”