Skip to main content

Army denies military chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said he will run for president

By Reza Sayah and Hamdi Alkhshali, CNN
updated 4:30 PM EST, Thu February 6, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "I have to fulfill the people's demands," he says
  • His chances of winning are very high
  • He is Egypt's most-adored man
  • But activists are urging caution

Cairo (CNN) -- Egypt's military was quick to quash a newspaper report Thursday that quoted army chief Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi as saying he will run for president.

The interview appeared in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasa earlier Thursday. And in it, El-Sisi appeared to confirm what many have long considered a foregone conclusion: that he'll run for president.

"The decision has been made," he is quoted as saying. "I have to fulfill the people's demands."

"We don't have a magic wand but we will not tamper with the people's dreams and aspirations," he added. "Let's hold our hands together and work for the country."

Egypt's national hero?
Video shows journalists getting arrested
Morsy to judge: Who are you? Where am I?
What is going on in Egypt?

Soon afterward, the army responded.

"What was published in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasa is merely journalistic speculation and not a direct statement from Field Marshal El-Sisi," it said in a statement.

If he does run, El-Sisi will have to resign his military post. But with no clear contender, his chances of winning the presidency are high.

He will become the sixth military leader to rule Egypt since its independence.

The only one who was democratically elected, Mohamed Morsy, was ousted by the military on July 3 after months of mass protests against his rule.

The interim government has not yet set a firm date for elections; candidates can officially declare themselves on February 18.

A most adored man

If one man can claim the title of Egypt's most-adored, it would be El-Sisi.

Many Egyptians speak of him reverentially. "A hero," or "a man of respect" are some of the terms thrown around.

"If he could be my father, that would be great," said a repairman who gave his name as Mahmoud.

Last week, Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces gave El-Sisi its blessing to run, calling his candidacy "a mandate and an obligation."

The same day, he was promoted from general to field marshal. He was defense minister under Morsy.

Urging caution

But not everyone is enamored.

It was El-Sisi who announced Morsy's ouster, sparking wild celebrations.

It was El-Sisi who oversaw the appointment of Egypt's interim leaders.

Rights groups say talk of an El-Sisi run shouldn't be cause for celebration, but reasons to worry.

"One has to be a little more worried about a return to military dictatorship," said political analyst Sarah Eltantawi.

"This country has been under military dictatorship since 1952. Anyone during that period who tried to organize politically, democratically was jailed and stymied in one way or another. "

Allegations of abuse

The Egyptian army has long been marred by allegations of abusing its power.

It was accused of beating and killing protesters who took to the streets to demand then-President Hosni Mubarak's ouster.

And when Morsy supporters demonstrated, the army was accused of doing the same.

Furthermore, El-Sisi is the same general who defended the use of virginity tests on female protesters. They were meant to shield soldiers from false accusations, he told state media.

Grievances gone

But for many Egyptians, the grievances are gone.

"People's livelihooods have really plummeted in the past year, two years, " said Eltantawi. "They want stability and the only form of stability that several generations of Egyptians have had have been in the form of the military."

For now, like it or not, the military seems to be playing a central role in post-revolution Egypt where establishing democracy is still the stated goal.

But the path to getting there isn't always democratic.

READ: Democracy: Egypt's beautiful dream in the wrong hands

READ: Military rule popular with Egyptians, study finds ahead of vote on constitution

READ: Is Egypt back where it was in 2011?

CNN's Reza Saya reported from Cairo; Hamdi Alkhshali from Atlanta

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
The possibility of pockets of air remaining within the hull of the sunken South Korean ferry offers hope to rescuers -- and relatives -- say experts.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Despite hundreds still missing after the sinking of a South Korean ferry, reports of text messages keep hope alive that there may be survivors yet.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
An Iranian mother slaps and then forgives her 17-year old son's murderer in dramatic scenes at the gallows.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests or political reform are still censored in China.
updated 5:31 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Russia's propaganda worse now than at height of Cold War, says Leon Aron, director of Russian studies at AEI.
Sanctions imposed against Russia are working as a deterrent, President Barack Obama and other White House senior administration officials said.
updated 12:40 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
A lack of progress in the search for MH370 is angering the families of victims.
updated 11:09 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
The searches for the Titanic and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 share common techniques.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
updated 11:35 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
This year's Pyongyang marathon was open to foreign amateurs.
updated 8:30 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
updated 1:53 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
How are police preparing for this year's 26.2-mile marathon, which takes place Monday?
updated 1:02 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Katrina Karkazis
Romance is hard, for anyone. For people with intersex traits, love poses unique challenges.
updated 5:26 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
The "kill switch," a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015.
updated 6:28 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT