Now that freshly titled Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah Sisi has been given the military’s support to stand in the presidential election, it can only be expected that he will shortly announce his candidacy.
Despite widespread support, Sisi has a long road ahead if he is to win the election in a manner that is legitimate and transparent, so that he can lead the Egyptian people to a free and democratic future.
After long decades living under a military dictatorship, where everyday struggles to work and eat preoccupied most Egyptians, the dream of democracy represented a luxury to many people. And since the downfall of former President Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, many have been looking for a new nationalist leader, a governing figure who could perhaps lead the country into democracy more smoothly than the rushed elections which took place in 2012 had.
But while Sisi certainly commands much popular support, and has already become an iconic figure for many, he has many challenges to overcome. Undoubtedly he is a strong military leader, but in the fields of politics and social issues he still needs to find his feet, having already faced much criticism for crackdowns, often violent, on anti-government media, activists and political parties.
If he is to stand for president, he must also allow space for his opponents. He needs to work actively to abandon the dogma of the Mubarak-era that the population only has one option when it comes to the ballot paper. He must produce a worthy manifesto, with tangible ideas on how to improve the state of the economy and social welfare. Otherwise, he risks being labeled as yet another military dictator and will soon lose support from home and abroad.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 29, 2014, on page 7.