UK & World News

  • 27 January 2014, 17:07

Egypt Army Backs Head To Run For President

Egypt's top military body has backed army chief Abdel Fattah al Sisi to run for the presidency, state media has reported.

Sisi, who ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July after mass street protests, could officially announce his candidacy within hours, the official news agency MENA reported.

In order to stand the 59-year-old will have to resign from his job as defence minister and from the military.

Earlier on Monday, the country's interim president Adly Mansour issued a decree elevating Sisi to the position of field marshal, a move seen as paving the way for a presidential bid.

The promotion came after MENA reported the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had met to "discuss developments on the security front ... [and] the peoples' demand for the defence minister [Sisi] to run for the presidency".

The state-run Al-Ahram newspaper claimed the group also named Chief of Staff Sedki Sobhi to replace Sisi as army chief and defence minister when he steps down.

The election is due to be held by mid-April and will be followed by parliamentary elections. Sisi, if he wins, is expected to influence the outcome of those elections by forming a party that would attract candidates.

His popularity has increased in line with the perception he is the strongman needed to end violence and instability that has plagued Egypt since 2011 and the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.

But the general faces a determined opposition and frequent terrorist attacks.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in Egypt since the overthrow of Morsi, including dozens of members of the security forces.

Over the weekend at least 49 people were killed in clashes between Islamist protesters and police, as thousands rallied in the capital Cairo to mark the third anniversary of the revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak.

Five soldiers were killed on Saturday when a military helicopter came down in the Sinai. Al Qaeda-inspired jihadist group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claimed it shot down the aircraft with a missile, but the authorities said it was an accident.

The group also claimed responsibility for a car bombing outside the police headquarters in Cairo on Friday that killed four people.

Also on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaa El-Din resigned in a post on his Facebook page. He is seen as one of the few in the Cabinet who have attempted to limit the crackdown on Morsi's supporters and promote reconciliation with Islamists.

The statement said: "[Bahaa El-Din] indeed tendered a written resignation from his ministerial position to the prime minister this morning so he can resume his political, party and legal activity outside the government."

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