In 2014 I begged Mansour to run in my place – El Sisi
Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El Sisi said on Thursday that he had begged the country’s interim president Adly Mansour to run for president at the end of his one year in office in 2014, but the career judge declined, saying he had had enough.
Mr El Sisi, who ran for office in 2014 and is now serving a second term, has repeatedly said he was reluctant to take charge, mostly because the challenge to lead a country of 100 million people with seemingly endless problems was too daunting. But he had never before said that he urged Mr Mansour to run for the country’s highest office.
“I was telling him for months on end that the [interim] year is almost over and that he should run [for president] while I stay in my place [as defence minister]. I do what can be done for the sake of Egypt and his sake,” Mr El Sisi told a gathering of several hundred, including Mr Mansour, in a ceremony to mark the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday this weekend.
“He said ‘Impossible! This is it, enough!’”
As defence minister, Mr El Sisi led the military’s removal on July 3, 2013, of Mohammed Morsi, a divisive president from the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
His removal followed mass protests against his rule that began on June 30.
After months of speculation about his plans, Mr El Sisi ran for office in 2014. Last year, he won a second four-year term, running virtually unopposed after several potentially serious candidates dropped out of the race or were jailed.
His only challenger was a little-known politician and supporter.
This year, voters ratified constitutional amendments that extended Mr El Sisi’s current term by two years and allowed him, if he chooses, to run again in 2024 for a six-year term. Additionally, the amendments significantly bolstered his powers, giving him control over the judiciary and enshrining the military as the ultimate guarantor of political life.
The amendments were adopted by an overwhelming majority. About three million voters rejected the changes with 23.4 million in favour.
“If you think that June 30 and July 3 were about a power grab, then you are doing an injustice to the idea behind them as well as the values and principles for which we took a stand. If you think that whole thing was for me to get where I am now, then I am worse than they are,” he said, alluding to the Brotherhood.
“It is not about a president and a regime ... it’s about building a nation, defending and safeguarding it.”
Mr El Sisi has embarked on a high-octane drive to upgrade the country’s faltering infrastructure, build new cities and an extensive network of roads.
He has also adopted ambitious economic reforms, including a currency devaluation and lifting state subsidies on key commodities, which triggered steep price rises.
He has also overseen the dismantling of the Brotherhood, imprisoning its leaders and thousands of members and supporters.
Last week, Mr El Sisi urged parliament, a pro-government chamber, to thoroughly investigate corruption allegations and publicise its findings. He said his actions and those of his government should not be exempt from scrutiny.
Parliament this week referred a prominent opposition lawmaker to the chamber’s ethics committee – the first step towards possible expulsion – after he shared a video in which he proposed early presidential elections and a reversal of the constitutional amendments adopted this year.
Abdel Fattah El Sisi, defence minister at the time, with outgoing interim president Adly Mansour in Cairo in 2014