Sisi enters Egyptian presidential race

Former army chief pledges fight against militancy

Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has announced his resignation as Egypt's military chief and declared his candicacy for a presidential election hhat eh is expected to win easily. The announcement came as no surprise and had been mooted for several months by the 59-year-old Sisi who vowed to fight what he described as the terrorist threat facing Egypt.

Sisi came to international attention last July after overseeing the ousting of former Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, following mass protests. The softly-spoken army chief went on to become the most powerful figure in the interim government that has ruled Egypt since then.

Political analysts say that although Sisi is a hesistant, even reluctant candidate, his popularity and absence of serious presidential challengers makes his victory very likely. The only other candidate is Hamdeen Sabahi, a well-known opposition figure who came third in Egypt's first democratic presidential election, and who declared his presidential bid on 8 February.

Sisi's supporters consider him the strong man required to stabilise the political turmoil that has gripped the nation since the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising in 2011.

However his Islamist opponents blame him for toppling the democratically elected Morsi, who appointed Sisi as military commander-in-chief and defence minister in August 2012. Sisi's critics also accuse him of being behind widespread human rights abuses and fear that his presidency could mark a return to authoritarianism, a pattern interrupted by Mursi's one-year tenure after his 2012 election victory.

Sisi's announcement came hours after Egypt's interim government ordered the prosecution of 919 suspected Islamists, and days after 529 Islamists were sentenced to death in a separate case.

If elected, Sisi will inherit a crippled economy, a growing insurgency and a bitterly divided nation of 85 million inhabitants. From the outset he has made it clear that he “cannot perform miracles” but analysts predict that if he doesn't produce results promptly his popularity could fade rapidly.

Sisi has been replaced as head of the Egyptian army by the former chief of staff General Sedki Sobhi.