CAIRO - Eman Abdel-Moneim
Calls have grown in recent weeks for Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to run for president in upcoming polls.
Mahmoud Badr, co-founder of the Tamarod ('Rebellion') movement, which spearheaded the protests that led to the July 3 ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi, said earlier that his movement was ready to throw its weight behind al-Sisi, a former head of Egypt's Military Intelligence apparatus, if he decided to run for president – or if Egypt's current state of instability persisted.
Several webpages and campaigns have recently appeared, particularly on social-networking website Facebook, touting "al-Sisi for president."
A growing number of local politicians, meanwhile, have nodded in agreement. Hamdeen Sabahi, a former presidential hopeful and leader of the Popular Current movement, said earlier that he would support al-Sisi if the latter decided to run for the top office. Sabahi even went so far as to call al-Sisi a "popular hero."
Sources close to the military establishment, however, say senior army generals are divided on the issue. They say that while some of the generals think al-Sisi must run for president, others believe Egypt's military establishment cannot spare al-Sisi's "efficiency" and "skill" as defense minister.
Calls for al-Sisi to swing himself into Egypt's saddle began well before Morsi's ouster, when around 25,000 people from the canal city of Port Said signed a petition asking al-Sisi to take control of the country.
"Assuming that he retired and people suggested he run for president, is this not the democratic process? Or will we say that the military establishment [is behind it] again?" army spokesman Ahmed Ali asked in earlier press statements.
Ali said that al-Sisi was still "a soldier in the armed forces" and did not aspire to a political role.
In an interview with The Washington Post last month, al-Sisi himself said he was not seeking power.
His assertion, however, has not eased the concerns of some activists about the possible return of the military to politics, particularly after Egypt's Constitutional Court decided a few months ago to allow military personnel to vote in general elections.
Morsi supporters, on the other hand, accuse the top general of "betraying" the president, the first democratically-elected civilian leader in Egypt's history. They even call for bringing the general to court on charges that he violated his oath of office, in which he vowed to respect Egypt's constitution.
Addressing hundreds of army generals, officers and soldiers last month, al-Sisi declared: "To those who say the army has usurped power, I say protecting the will of the people is far more precious than ruling Egypt."
He said he would consider helping Egypt get past its current difficulties as his greatest personal achievement.
Al-Sisi went on to cite the restoration of domestic security, implementation of the transitional roadmap, and holding presidential elections as his chief objectives for the months ahead.
The emergence of numerous Facebook pages glorifying the general has coincided with the appearance of several patriotic songs hailing Egypt's armed forces and its leaders.
Some of these songs were performed at a concert organized two months ago by the army, during which al-Sisi declared that he would never allow a confrontation between the Egyptian people and army.
Some cyber-activists have even launched a campaign calling to rename Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, the site of a anti-coup sit-in violently crushed by security forces last month, to "Al-Sisi Square."