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Egypt army chief to seek presidency

Egypt’s military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has announced that he will run for president.

In a nationally televised speech, Field Marshal el-Sissi said he has resigned from the military. Wearing military fartigues, he said it was the last time he would wear it and that “I give up the uniform to defend the nation” and run in elections expected next month.

The field marshal is considered almost certain to win. Under Egyptian law, only civilians can run for president, so his resignation was a required step.

Last summer, the military chief removed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, after massive protests calling for his ousting.

Field Marchal el-Sissi said he was “responding to a call from the people”.

Since the removal of Mr Morsi the military-backed interim government has waged a fierce crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood, arresting thousands of members and killing hundreds of protesters in clashes. At the same time, militants have waged a campaign of attacks on police and the military, and Field Marshal el-Sissi has repeatedly declared a war on terrorism.

In his address, he gave a campaign-style speech, promising he intended to build a “modern and democratic Egypt.” He spoke of the challenges facing the country, including millions of unemployed and a “weak economy.”

In an apparent goodwill gesture despite the crackdown, he promised “no exclusion. … I extend my hand to all at home and abroad – all those who have not been convicted.”

“There will be no personal score-settling,” he said.

However, on the ground there have been no signs of any move toward reconciliation with Mr Morsi’s supporters and the Brotherhood, once the country’s strongest political force. Authorities today announced the latest in a series of mass trials of suspected Islamists, including the top leader of the Brotherhood Mohammed Badie, on murder and other charges in connection to violence the past months.

Morsi supporters have continued near daily protests against Field Marshal el-Sissi and the interim government. Today, students in several universities, most of them Islamists, held protests that turned into clashes with security forces. An 18-year-old student was killed in the violence at Cairo University, the Health Ministry said.

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