A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Military Candidate for President of Egypt

From the beginning of Egypt's Higher Armed Forces Council taking the helm of state, they have insisted over and over that the Army will not run a candidate in forthcoming Presidential elections. It has been a mantra from the moment Mubarak left: the Army has no interest in power itself, it is the guardian of the transition.

Retired military men, however, are not excluded from running, and now retired General Magdi Hatata, former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces until 2001, has announced plans to run for President.

Hatata was once Commander of the Republican Guard, served as Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Army until 2001, and became head of the Arab Organization for Industrialization, part of Egypt's military industries. As Chief of Staff he had good relations with the US, and many in the US military considered him far superior to his Minister of Defense, Field Marshal Tantawi (now Egypt's effective head of state). Whether Hatata has a following outside the Armed Forces, however, is far from clear.

Some in the US were promoting Gen. Sami Enan, the current Chief of Staff, until the Armed Forces Council said none of its members would run. Hatata, much admired in the US, may satisfy some of those enthusiasts. (No one sees Tantawi as a serious candidate.) But whether the Tahrir revolutionaries even know who he is is far from clear.

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