12 million want El-Sisi to run for second term, say supporters

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi

:: Supporters of Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi announced on Sunday that they have collected more than 12 million signatures from people urging him to run for a second four-year term, a mostly symbolic gesture as there is little doubt he will contest, and win, next year’s elections.

El-Sisi, elected in 2014, has yet to formally announce his candidacy.

He has said he will make his decision after gauging popular reaction to a “factsheet” of his achievements due to be publicized next month.

With his win in the 2018 vote an almost foregone conclusion, a large voter turnout would take on added significance, affirming El-Sisi’s candidacy as the people’s choice. His likely opponents — the list so far includes a prominent rights activist, a former prime minister and an opposition politician thrown out of parliament — are not expected to pose a serious challenge to him securing a second term.

Mohammed El-Garhy, the chief coordinator of the group that gathered the signatures, told a news conference on Sunday that “the supreme goal of our campaign is to safeguard the Egyptian state.”

He was alluding to the widespread conviction among El-Sisi’s supporters that his policies since 2013 have protected Egypt from the chaos and bloodshed seen in fellow Arab countries like Libya, Yemen or Syria.

The group has carried out a large-scale publicity campaign, with giant posters of the president looming over some of Cairo’s busiest roads.

The group is called “So You Can Build It (Egypt),” a play on the mega projects that El-Sisi has undertaken since assuming office.

These include the expansion of the Suez Canal, the construction of new cities, including a new administrative capital east of Cairo, a network of roads and low and middle-income housing projects.

The president has also introduced ambitious and politically risky economic reforms.

El-Sisi’s 3 1/2 years in office have also seen an uptick in terror attacks in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula.

On Saturday, El-Sisi repeated his vow that his military would use its “full range of violence” against the militants.

“We must, with God’s help end terrorism there (in Sinai),” he said on Saturday in a ceremony marking the end of new tunnels under the Suez Canal to link mainland Egypt to Sinai.

Last month, terrorists in Sinai killed more than 300 worshippers praying at a mosque. The president later gave the army and police a three-month deadline to “restore” security and stability in Sinai.

On Sunday, the Interior Ministry said police staged a pre-dawn raid on a Nile delta farm used by militants as a hideout, killing nine of them when they returned fire.

Separately, it said police also busted a cell of Brotherhood-linked militants in Cairo, the capital, arresting nine and seizing arms, explosives and written material linking members of the cell to a July terrorist attack in the Greater Cairo area.

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