Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Update: Sisi thanks SCAF for allowing him to respond to the call of duty

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has empowered Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to run for president, state media reported early Monday evening.

SCAF said that it would allow Sisi to act according to his conscience and national duty in an official statement released by Armed Forces spokesperson Ahmed Mohamed Ali.

Sisi, in turn, thanked the council for allowing him to respond to the call of duty and the necessities of the nation.

"SCAF has witnessed Field Marshall Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s achievements since his appointment to head the Armed Forces … and SCAF can do nothing except to regard with utmost respect the wishes of the people to nominate him for the presidency, which is a call of duty," the statement read.

The statement added that SCAF respected Sisi’s belief it was “mandatory to respond to” the calls of the people “in the context of the free choice of the people.”

This comes shortly after interim President Adly Mansour issued a decree promoting Sisi to the rank of field marshal, state-run MENA reported Monday.

However, despite these developments, the spokesperson for the Armed Forces was quick to issue a statement on its Facebook page denying any changes in military posts, as suggested by some media outlets, adding that the public would be officially informed should any changes take place.

The statement urged the press to confirm such reports with official sources before propagating inaccurate information that may negatively affect the military institution. 

Mansour’s decision, as well as SCAF’s endorsement of Sisi’s candidacy, “suggests the careful coordination of the preparation for [his nomination],” according to Robert Springborg, professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School and an expert on the Egyptian military. 

The Armed Forces held a meeting Monday, headed by Sisi, to discuss the popular demand for his presidential nomination, according to MENA.

Given the mounting pressure from the general public and politicians, it was expected that Sisi would announce his intention to run for the presidency, said Dostour Party member Ahmed al-Hawary.

But that does not mean that now is the right time for Egypt to have a military man as president — it could confirm the perception that June 30 was not a popular revolution, Hawary warned.

“Elections in the presence of Sisi as a candidate will not be fair. Even if there are no violations, Sisi still represents the state and its strongest institution. Therefore, all state employees will help him,” Hawary asserted.

A source familiar with the military institution, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Mada Masr that this is a routine upgrade in rank and the timing is not tied to anything, but comes upon decree by the president when he sees fit to do so.

Contrary to popular belief, he explained, the rank of field marshal does not necessitate that the officer has fought in a specific war, adding that any rank after major general is ordered by presidential decree.

However, Springborg clarified that this would be the country's first field marshal to have never fought in a war.

Mohamed Naeem, a political analyst, said Sisi’s promotion to the rank of field marshal may be a way to “outdo Sami Anan’s seniority.”

Anan, the former Armed Forces chief of staff, holds the rank of colonel general, as Sisi did prior to Monday. The issue of rank and seniority would come into play if rumors that Anan might run in the presidential race proved to be true.

“This decision is a kind of a pompous one, because the rank of field marshal is globally known to mean that the officer fought in a war, on several fronts, and has been victorious. But these kinds of promotions in ranks happen in third world countries, such as the case with Yemen, which has no army but used to have a field marshal,” Naeem said.

Many perceive the move as one of many indications that Sisi plans to nominate himself for president when the window for nominations opens on February 15.

While the anonymous source reiterated that the promotion had nothing to do with the upcoming elections, he did add that it was 90 percent likely that Sisi would indeed nominate himself and bid for the nation's top post.

He also said that a Cabinet shuffle is coming within days, and that if Sisi wanted to run for president, this would be his chance to resign or retire early, as is required by law.

"His new rank could quiet all the talk about his presidency and appease those who are demanding he run for president," the source added vaguely. "They feel he saved them and may do so again in the future, as well as help Egypt rise."

Asked what this means for those who are calling for a civilian president, he said that nominations are open to all, and the elections will be free and fair. "The people will choose," he said.

Sisi led the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, following mass protests, after which his popularity skyrocketed amid increased calls for his candidacy. Morsi had appointed Sisi as defense minister in August 2012.