Egypt’s military chief and the architect of the ouster of the nation’s first democratically elected president resigned as minister of defense late on Wednesday, announcing a presidential run that he is expected to easily win, state media reported.
Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al Sisi tendered his resignation to Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, and to a military leadership council that had already endorsed his candidacy in January, calling it a national duty following the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohammed Morsi in July.
“I announce my intention to run for president and ask for your support,” Mr. Sisi said in a recorded statement carried on state television.
The move ends months of speculation over Mr. Sisi’s political ambitions amid a harsh crackdown on his opponents in the Brotherhood in particular and among secular minded figures who have expressed discomfort with Egypt’s return to a military-backed autocracy.
Egyptian law requires presidential candidates be civilians. Also Wednesday, military chief of staff Sedki Sobhy was promoted to the rank of general, setting him up to take over as minister of defense.
Mr. Sisi, 59 years old, has enjoyed a meteoric rise and massive public support and has been endorsed by many in Egypt’s political and business elite as the only figure strong enough to provide stability following three years of political and economic turmoil.
But the challenges of leading Egypt loom large. He would face the continued street demonstrations that have decreased significantly in size but have been consistent, especially on university campuses. Workers, from doctors to bus drivers, have been striking over pay disputes while the summer months will continue to strain Egypt’s already rickety electricity grid, resulting in blackouts.