Clearing the way for al Sisi: Former chief of staff for the Egyptian army will not run for president

Published March 13th, 2014 - 02:47 GMT

Egypt’s former chief of the army staff, Sami Anan, on Thursday said he would not stand for president, raising army chief Field Marshal Abdul Fattah Al Sisi’s chances of being the lead contender.

“I have decided not to nominate myself for presidency with the aim of boosting the country’s supreme interests and confronting the conspiracies targeting the state, and out of my awareness of the looming challenges that require all of us to cement the national ranks of both the people and the army,” Anan told a press conference.

Anan, 66, looked in good health, days after he claimed he survived an attempt on his life outside his office in the Cairo quarter of Dokki.

He served as the chief of the army staff under former president Hosni Mubarak, who was forced out of power in a 2011 popular uprising.

Anan became the deputy chief of the military council that ruled Egypt for 17 months following Mubarak’s ouster.

The council has been repeatedly criticised for mishandling the post-Mubarak transitional period that was marred by bloody street turmoil and ended with Mohammad Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, becoming Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

Anan was appointed by Morsi as his advisor. Morsi was deposed by the army in July last year following wide street protests against his one-year rule.

Anan’s detractors have accused him in recent months of being backed by the now-banned Brotherhood, an accusation he has repeatedly denied.

“I spent nearly half a century in the Armed Forces as a fighter and a commander,” he said on Thursday. “I will not heed trivial things and my heart and eyes will always be fixed on the nation and its supreme interests, leaving the people and history to judge me.”

Prominent journalist Mustafa Bakri, a staunch backer of the military, said Anan’s decision was the result of several meetings held recently with the former general to quit the race. “I and others met with him more than once to emphasise the importance of unity and standing behind Field Marshal Al Sisi,” said Bakri, who appeared next to Anan at the press conference.

Al Sissi, the architect of Mursi’s overthrow, has yet to officially announce a presidential bid. Last week, he sent the clearest signal yet for his plan to contest the elections, saying he “cannot turn his back on the people”.

Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the 2012 presidential vote, is the only one so far to have officially announced he will run in the presidential polls expected in May.

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