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Egypt's el-Sissi promoted to top rank, mulls presidency bid

Egypt's military leaders have endorsed a presidential bid from the army chief, Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi. It comes hours after he was elevated to the rank of field marshal, the highest in Egypt's armed forces.

Egypt's official news agency MENA reported that el-Sissi could officially announce his intention to stand in forthcoming presidential elections. According to MENA, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces "unanimously delegated" him to run during a meeting on Monday.

There are signs that the popular general might stand in the elections. His endorsement by military leaders came on the same day he was promoted to the rank of field marshal.

"Interim president Adly Mansour issued a presidential decree promoting General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, minister of defense, to the rank of field marshal," read a statement from Egypt's presidency.

Crowds gathered on Saturday to join government-backed rallies to mark the beginning of the 2011 revolution that toppled former president and one-time strongman Hosni Mubarak. Many chanted the name of el-Sissi - calling on him to run in the presidential election.

The 59-year-old el-Sissi, who

enjoys support among many Egyptians

after he oversaw President Mohammed Morsi's removal from office on July 3 last year, has not yet announced his intentions. However, newspapers considered close to the country's powerful military ran front-page headlines on Monday reporting that el-Sissi - who is presently serving as defense minister - would announce his candidacy soon.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces - the top body of military generals, headed by el-Sissi - was due to meet on Monday. According to the Reuters news agency, the purpose was to discuss public support for an el-Sissi presidency.

Opinion remains split

Though Morsi's supporters have likened el-Sissi to a would-be Mubarak, the general's adherents draw a parallel with the nationalist icon Gamal Abdel Nasser.

President Mansour - who was installed by the army as president - said on Sunday that the country

would choose a president before parliamentary elections.

That decision came after weeks of wrangling between political groups with differing ideas about which should come first.

Those in favor of holding parliamentary elections first said their system would help prevent any president from centralizing power. The advocates of having a president first claim the system would be more stable.

The transition plan adopted in response to the toppling of Morsi, the country's first freely elected president, calls for both votes to take place within six months of a new constitution.

The charter of the constitution was adopted on January 18 and the presidential election is now expected to take place by the end of April. The parliamentary poll would likely be held before the end of July.

Egypt's military rarely promotes senior officers to the level of field marshal, with long-time ruler Mubarak never having assumed the rank. However, Hussein Tantawi, the former military chief who led Egypt's transition between Mubarak's ouster and Morsi's election in June 2012, also holds the rank.

rc, jr/ipj (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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