A number of leading Sisi supporters have told Asharq Al-Awsat that Sisi is waiting to officially retire from the military before discussing anything regarding his campaign, which he is widely believed to be poised to launch.
The head of the pro-Sisi Kamel Gemeelak (Complete your Favor) group, Abd El-Naby Abd El-Sattar, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The leaders of these [pro-Sisi] groups who tried to meet with Sisi [to help organize his expected campaign] were told that ‘no meetings would be held yet.’”
A source from the pro-Sisi Masr Baladna (Egypt is our Country) group, who requested anonymity, also told Asharq Al-Awsat that Sisi did not currently wish to discuss his expected election campaign, saying the group had tried to meet with Sisi and he had asked them to wait until he was no longer part of the military.
“Those close to Field Marshal Sisi have told us that he will not meet with any political or revolutionary groups, or those approving of his running [for the presidency], before taking off his military uniform, as his military status would not allow for this,” the source said.
This comes as a British parliamentary delegation met with Sisi on Sunday following a meeting on Saturday with interim President Adly Mansour.
The delegation, which includes members of Britain’s upper and lower houses of parliament—the House of Lords and the House of Commons, respectively—was in Egypt to discuss Egypt’s political roadmap, Egypt’s State Information Services said.
Former secretary general of the Arab league and head of Egypt’s 50-member constitutional draft committee, Amr Moussa, also met with the delegation on Sunday.
In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Moussa maintained that Sisi possesses all the characteristics required by the country’s forthcoming president, particularly “the trust of the people.”
“Why should we look for new [presidential] characteristics while the public support for electing Sisi as president is clear for all to see?” Moussa asked.
Field Marshal Sisi’s popularity has soared since mass protests against former President Mohamed Mursi last year prompted the army, which he heads, to remove the Islamist president from office in July after only one year in power.
Kamel Gemeeela—whose name, “Complete your Favor,” refers to Sisi’s role in ousting Mursi—says it has alone gathered above 5 million signatures from ordinary Egyptians urging Sisi to run in the elections.
A source from a pro-Sisi group who requested anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat that “at least 19 groups,” comprising former military figures and MPs, members of political parties and activists, have been urging Sisi to run for the presidency “for months.”
Last week interim President Mansour promoted then-Gen. Sisi to the rank of Field Marshal, fueling already rife speculation that Sisi would retire from the military to run as a civilian in the upcoming presidential elections, in line with Egyptian law, which bars military figures from holding the position.
During the same week, Mansour made a second announcement, declaring presidential elections would precede parliamentary polls, an amendment to the timetable agreed for the country’s military-backed political roadmap since Mursi’s ouster.
Polls to elect a new president are now expected to take place within a few months, with presidential campaigns due to officially begin on February 18.
Moussa said the country’s next president should give priority to finalizing the roadmap, as well as reconstructing and putting the country on the path to the future.
Such steps, he said, will “redress the imbalance in Egypt and pave the way to domestic reform and [Egypt’s] comeback to the regional and international arena.”
Despite support from a number of other countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Egypt has received some international criticism following the ouster, including its suspension from the African Union.
In particular, the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood—which has seen the group declared a terrorist organization and some of its leading figures arrested—and the arrests of journalists, have drawn the strongest reactions from abroad. The UN recently expressed concern over the “increasingly severe clampdown and physical attacks” on journalists in the country.
Five Al-Jazeera journalists were arrested and held in custody for more than a month, accused of reporting “false news,” “harming national security,” and “aiding a terrorist group.”
On Sunday, one of those journalists, Egyptian Mohamed Badr, was cleared of all charges. Al-Jazeera’s legal representative said he expected his release within days.
But Moussa said he was not concerned about international responses to the course Egypt has taken since last July. He was more concerned with the domestic situation, which he said was the key guarantor for confronting any acts of sabotage.
Egypt has been rocked by a series of bombings and assassinations in recent weeks, mainly targeting police and security forces. In December, the country’s interim government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, blaming it for the attacks. Militant Sinai-based group Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis has thus far claimed responsibility for them.
The attacks come as Egypt prepares for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections due after Egyptians approved the country’s new constitution following a two-day vote on January 14–15.
Moussa, who headed the 50-member committee tasked with drafting the constitution, said the document was inclusive and served the interests of all Egyptians regardless of their ideological background.
A new amendment to the constitution from the Mursi-backed 2012 document explicitly bans the formation of political parties based on religion.
In addition to the Muslim Brotherhood, a number of prominent young activists and bloggers who initially supported Mursi’s ouster have also been arrested and jailed. They include two founding members of the April 6 Movement—one of the galvanizing forces in the January 25, 2011 protests which precipitated the revolution.
When asked whether he sees a chance for the youth to win in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, Moussa said: “I expect that and am happy that a large number of youth are preparing themselves to stand for the parliamentary elections.”