Egypt army ‘backs Sisi as presidential candidate’

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Egypt’s top military body has given its approval for army chief Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to run for the presidency, state media report.

Field Marshal Sisi led the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, in July.

He is expected to accept the nomination from the Supreme Council for Armed Forces (Scaf) and resign from his military position within days.

Earlier, the interim president promoted him from general to field marshal.

Field Marshal Sisi is popular with much of the Egyptian public and analysts say he would be expected to win the presidential election, to be held by late April.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people joined a rally in Cairo to mark the anniversary of the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak and call on Field Marshal Sisi to stand.

The BBC’s Orla Guerin in Cairo says many Egyptians see him as being the strongman needed to pull their country out of its political crisis, but that others fear his election could mark a return to the authoritarianism the revolution sought to end.

Saturday also saw widespread anti-government protests, with dozens of people killed in clashes and arrests reported in several cities.

Field Marshal Sisi served as defence minister under Morsi, but spearheaded the military intervention which removed him after mass street protests.

Earlier this month a new constitution, replacing one introduced under Mr Morsi, was overwhelmingly approved in a referendum.

The military-backed government said the vote had been an “unrivalled success” but critics say the document favours the army at the expense of the people, and fails to deliver on the 2011 revolution that led to the fall of Mubarak.

The banned Muslim Brotherhood, which Morsi comes from and which boycotted the referendum, dismissed it as a “farce”.

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