In 2014 I begged Man­sour to run in my place – El Sisi

The National - News - - NEWS - HAMZA HENDAWI Cairo

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.

AFP

Ab­del Fat­tah El Sisi, de­fence min­is­ter at the time, with out­go­ing in­terim pres­i­dent Adly Man­sour in Cairo in 2014

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