Posters back Egyptian army chief for president


Posters calling for the head of Egypt’s military council to run for president appeared around central Cairo alarming activists who said associates of deposed President Hosni Mubarak are behind the campaign.

They portrayed a smiling Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who became Egyptian leader for a transitional period until elections after the armed forces sided with an uprising that overthrew Mubarak on Feb. 11.

Army officers have denied the armed forces would field a presidential candidate but many Egyptians believe they could back someone with a military background, like all of Egypt’s past presidents, Reuters reports.

The posters glued to buildings in public places showed Tantawi in uniform with the Egyptian flag as the backdrop. “A popular demand for stability”, they said, referring to Tantawi who heads the 24-member ruling military council.

The campaign, run by a youth group called “Egypt Above All”, said it aimed to gather a million signatures to back Tantawi. The army said it would comment on the campaign in due course.

One of the campaign’s organisers, Mahmoud Attia, said Tantawi would be the best presidential candidate.
“We express a popular demand on behalf of the silent majority that sees Field Marshal Tantawi as the best to lead the nation for one presidential term to a true democracy,” Attia was quoted by al-Masry al-Youm newspaper as saying.

Top generals initially promised to relinquish power six months after the uprising, but have extended the period to allow political forces to build support before elections.

The military council has said it would transfer power to civilians gradually, beginning with a parliamentary election on Nov. 28 and ending with a presidential poll possibly by the end of 2012 or early 2013.

Independent activists said the poster campaign seemed to have been organised by Mubarak-era associates.
“The campaign and the posters carry the mark of Mubarak’s henchman whose interest is keeping the usual suspects in power,” activist Saad Bahaar said, adding: “It aims to convince people that no one but those in power could guarantee stability.”

Tantawi, 75, was defence minister for 20 years and has been known to be one of Mubarak’s most trusted associates. In September he was seen in downtown Cairo, wearing civilian clothes and mingling with ordinary Egyptians.

Some analysts said he was trying to portray himself as an ordinary citizen who was close to the people.

Jurist Hesham al-Bastawisy objected to the idea of a Tantawi candidacy, saying it would fly in the face of the demands of the uprising which was to end military-influenced rule.
“As the leader of the council managing the transitional period, Tantawi cannot run for president because he is already in power. This would mean the army setting the political stage at the expense of the democratic transition,” he said.

Activists and political parties have accused the army of failing to make real reforms and bring corrupt Mubarak-era officials to justice.