Egypt’s presidential race is heating up even before it officially begins, as former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Sami Anan is said to be reconsidering his potential candidacy.
A well-informed source told the privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper that Anan may choose to reverse an earlier decision to run for the country’s top post, and is due to announce his final decision shortly.
This comes just one week after the army council delegated Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to nominate himself in response to popular demand.
Al-Shorouk quotes unnamed sources as saying a number of Anan’s friends and public personalities “have convinced him not to run so as not to fracture the consensus that exists on the Egyptian street around the nationalistic personality that is expected to announce its final position in the middle of this month.”
Although the quote is kept ambiguous and does not point to a specific person, it is a clear enough reference to Sisi, who is expected to make his candidacy official when the window for nominations opens on February 15.
The source reportedly claims that those who have met Anan recently clarified that the banned Muslim Brotherhood group – designated a terrorist organization by Egypt’s Cabinet on December 25 – wants to take advantage of Anan’s candidacy during election campaigning to tarnish the image of Sisi as well as the military leadership.
Iman Ahmed, the head of Anan’s media office, told Al-Shorouk that since Anan has not yet made a final announcement on the presidential election, these matters are too early to speak of.
Last Monday, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) empowered Sisi to run for president, saying it would allow him to act according to his conscience and national duty. In turn, Sisi thanked the council for allowing him to respond to the call of duty and the necessities of the nation.
The statement added that SCAF respected Sisi’s belief it was “mandatory to respond to” the calls of the people “in the context of the free choice of the people.” This came shortly after interim President Adly Mansour issued a decree promoting Sisi to the rank of field marshal.
Some have said that the nomination by both military men reflects lack of alignment among the military ranks, while others have gone further to say that backing either candidate will represent the differing interests of Gulf states, which have supported Egypt in the aftermath of former President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster.
However, earlier this week, Sameh Seif al-Yazal, a strategist and retired army general, refuted this viewpoint in a television interview on MBC Misr, saying it is not a “power struggle between generals.”
“The democratic process gives both the right to run in the presidential election,” he said, “As long as they both meet the eligibility requirements and see that they are up to this mission.”
The only other name in the mix for a possible presidential bid is former candidate and leftist politician Hamdeen Sabbahi. However, reports have suggested that he may also back out of the race if Sisi chooses to run.
Meanwhile, the partisan Al-Wafd newspaper reported that Effat Sadat, head of the Democratic Sadat Party, said he would lead a campaign among civil forces and parties to convince Anan to withdraw form the race.
In a statement, he said that political and popular forces are unified around Sisi to convince him to run for the country’s top post, adding that national duty obligates Anan to support Sisi, not run against him.
In a column published in the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper on February, journalist Makram Mohamed Ahmed asked in astonishment under the headline: “Anan, a candidate for president?!”
He questioned “whose support Anan would count on as he enters these difficult elections, which all indicators definitively point to Sisi winning due to overwhelming support.”
Ahmed asks whether Anan is planning to count on the Brotherhood votes and those who he says follow them, oddly pointing to the April 6 Youth Movement and the Revolutionary Socialists, known for their stanch opposition to the group and Morsi when he was in office.
If Anan thinks that these votes can carry him to the presidential palace, Ahmed writes, “did he think carefully about the terrible price they would require?”
The statement is just one example of the obstacles and questions any candidate who chooses to run against Sisi would face, given the breadth of support for his presidential bid.
Reports in the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm have cited unnamed sources as claiming that there are rifts within the Anti-Coup Alliance regarding supporting Anan’s presidential bid. The alliance comprises groups and members that support the Brotherhood and demand Morsi’s reinstatement.