Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Former Egyptian army chief Sami Anan announced that he would not be entering his name as a candidate for the presidency, leaving Nasserite candidate Hamdeen Sabahi as the sole presidential candidate on the scene ahead of popular Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s expected candidacy.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat following his shock announcement, Anan said he took the decision in order to “preserve the unity of the armed forces and the Egyptian people.”
“We are all soldiers of the homeland and will confront the internal and external plots being hatched against the Egyptian state,” he added.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Anan announced that his decision not to stand came following a meeting with a number of senior Egyptian military, judicial and media figures, including former commander-in-chief Hussein Tantawi.
Anan also cited media reports of rifts developing within the country’s military establishment over his expected presidential candidacy.
“I have spent almost half a century of my life as a soldier fighting among the ranks of the armed forces . . . and I will always be proud of belonging to this army,” Anan said.
“I pledged to always call for the unity of the people and I remain keen on maintaining the cohesion of the army,” he added.
Earlier this week, Anan claimed to have survived a dramatic assassination attempt in Cairo, blaming the attack on unspecified “terrorists.” However Egypt’s Interior Ministry subsequently claimed not to have received any report of an assassination attempt.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, sources close to Anan said: “The statement is not the end of the road but will be followed by several stances from Anan. This is primarily aimed at safeguarding Egyptian unity and providing a way out of the current crisis.”
The source affirmed that the retired Chief of Staff will continue to be a political presence on the Egyptian scene, not ruling out Anan establishing a political party in the future.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat prominent Egyptian Left-wing politician Abdullah Al-Sinawi said: “Sisi will announce his candidacy two days before nominations officially open.”
There were reports in the Egyptian media this week that Sisi was preparing to announce his resignation as Defense Minister in preparation for his presidential bid.
Sinawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that in his view, “No new presidential candidates will emerge and the competition will be between Sisi and Sabahi.”