Cairo: Nine months after toppling Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, powerful army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has quit the military to contest a presidential election he is expected to win easily.
Field Marshal Sisi, 59, who also resigned as defence minister last night, tendered his resignation to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAP).
He had led the military coup that overthrew President Mohammed Morsi last July.
In a televised statement, Sisi said that he has resigned from the army and intends to run for the country’s presidency.
Analysts say Sisi is likely to win the presidency, given his popularity and the lack of any serious rivals.
“Today is the last time you’ll see me wearing this (military) uniform. I was honoured to wear it to defend the nation and today I am also leaving it behind to defend the nation. I will continue to fight every day for an Egypt free of terrorism,” said Sisi, stressing that he has been a member of the armed forces for over 45 years.
The last few years in Egypt have proved “that no one could be president without the people’s will,” he said.
“My determination to run in the election does not bar others from their right to run. I will be happy if whoever the people choose succeeds,” he said, adding that he hopes for “a nation for all without exclusion”.
Sisi has been expected to run for the presidency ever since he overthrew Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, who appointed him, thus cementing his position as the country’s new political force.
He had to resign as defence minister and from the army to run for the president. As per Egyptian law, military personnel are not allowed to enter politics.
He was named defence minister in August 2012 by Morsi.
Sisi faces no serious competition in the upcoming election, likely before June, and is expected to easily win the poll riding on a wave of popularity.
SCAF in a statement earlier had stated that it welcomed “the people’s demands for Al-Sisi to run for President”.
The Egyptian army’s Chief of Staff Sedki Sobhi has been promoted by interim President Adly Mansour to the rank of colonel general, a title that has historically been held only by Egyptian defence ministers, according to state-run TV.
Egypt has been in political turmoil since the overthrow of military dictator Hosni Mubarak during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and later under Morsi and Sisi is seen as someone who can end the crisis plaguing the country.
Morsi’s term was marked with political uncertainty and violence in a deeply polarised country that ultimately led to his ouster by the powerful military.