Creepiest propaganda ever on the front page of today’s Sout Al-Ummah: “Egypt is all Al-Sisi” pic.twitter.com/oPe8Ldnjjo— Basil الضبع (@basildabh) August 18, 2013
The Egyptian counsel of generals laid the path on Monday for what many Egyptians believe is all but inevitable: that Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will be the country's next president. The Supreme Counsel of Armed Forces (SCAF) announced they would "authorize" a presidential run by Sisi, effectively opening door for the military to run Egypt indefinitely.
Hours later, he reportedly submitted his resignation from the army, which officially makes him eligible to run.
Although his candidacy is not yet official, Sisi says he's been the central charismatic figure of the military's coup against Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood government. Sisi was the one announced to Egyptians that the military ousted elected former president Mohamed Morsi in July of last year, and has essentially been the government's figurehead ever since. He's also become the focus of an early propaganda push designed to make his presidency an inevitability.
Earlier, the state-run military was careful to note that the SCAF was considering "the people's request" to run for president. That notion of popular adoration is the basis for Sisi's presumptive claim to the presidency. And earlier on Monday, that argument was, in a way, canonized, as Egypt's interim president Adly Mansour promoted Sisi to the position of Field Marshal, the highest military rank Egypt grants. That move prompted some mockery from those outside of the Sisi adoration complex, because usually the title of Field Marshal is reserved for those military leaders who have seen combat, which Sisi has not. Unless you count battling your own people in the streets.
Am I going to be detained if I ask which war General, sorry Field Marshal, Sisi fought in to be awarded his new title? #Egypt— Bel Trew - بل ترو (@Beltrew) January 27, 2014
Apparently in Egypt you don't need to have served in a war to be a mosheer, and I will therefore designate myself a mosheer.— المشيرة أبو كار (@Sarahcarr) January 27, 2014
In January, Sisi said he'd consider running for president only "at the request of the people and with a mandate from my army." Now, it looks like Sisi will be able to (perhaps exclusively) claim he has both.
But don't get the impression that the cult of Sisi is fake, or imposed entirely through propaganda. It's a bit more complicated than that. The New Republic did a good job explaining why. "Much of Egyptian society is a happy participant" in the nation's controlling institutions, Nathan Brown writes:
In recent months, many non-Islamists who participated in the 2011 uprising have run afoul of Egypt’s various state actors, and some leading figures who stood against both Mubarak and Morsi are imprisoned. But other participants in the 2011 and 2013 waves of protest are very content with the new order. The problem with Egypt’s revolution is not that it is eating its children; instead many of its children are devouring it.
Of course, there's one pretty big risk for Sisi if he does run, and win: as president, Sisi might actually have to take blame for the substantial problems facing the country right now. As a military leader, as a man who was the face of an effort to depose the unpopular Morsi administration, the adoration is more secure. Andrew Hammond has some thoughts on how a Sisi presidency could actually be good for the newly deposed and marginalized Muslim Brotherhood:
If he runs, Sisi will see opposition to the military’s blatant interference in the public sphere increase and opinion slowly change on the Muslim Brotherhood, which hopes he will make this mistake in order to regain the sympathy."
If Sisi runs, the AP explains, he will almost certainly win the popular vote scheduled to take place by April of this year. In addition to the popular support, Egyptians would likely have few other choices.