Riyadh to back Sisi alternative in 2018 presidential elections?

Riyadh to back Sisi alternative in 2018 presidential elections?

2 min read
19 October, 2016
Saudi Arabia will support an alternative candidate to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in upcoming presidential elections, reports suggest, as tensions between Egypt and the Gulf Kingdom escalate.
Anan has long been thought to be harbouring big political ambitions [Getty]

Saudi Arabia will support an alternative candidate to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in upcoming presidential elections set to take place in 2018, sources suggest, as tensions between Egypt and the Kingdom escalate.

Saudi officials have started moving towards backing former chief of staff of the Egyptian army, Sami Anan, as a contender to Sisi, an Egyptian political source told The New Arab.

Cairo recently voted in favour of a Russian-drafted resolution on Syria at the UN Security Council, angering Riyadh, one of Sisi's main backers since he toppled Islamist president Mohammad Morsi in 2013.

"Saudi circles have begun taking action to support a candidate in the 2018 presidential elections. Anan's name has been repeated many times recently following reports that 2012 losing candidate Ahmad Shafiq was preparing to announce his candidacy," the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.

"The Saudis think Anan is a well-suited candidate because he has a military background, meaning that the army won't oppose him, and because he also has good relations with the various political parties."

     
      Sisi has defended Egypt's decision to vote for a UN resolution
strongly opposed by Saudi Arabia [YouTube]

Anan served as the chief of staff of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces [SCAF] from 2005 to 2011, commanding 468,000 troops.

Following the 2011 uprising, he became second in command of the army, behind Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, however, in August 2012, Egypt's first democratically elected president, Morsi, dismissed both Tantawi and Anan.

Anan has also been seen as a tolerable candidate by some Islamist figures in Egypt; a source in the al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya told The New Arab that group has good experiences in previous interactions with the former chief of staff.

"Adnan had asked us to mediate with some other pro-Muslim Brotherhood Islamist groups, most of which did not have a negative opinion about him," the source said.

In 2011, Kamel al-Helbawy, a prominent Brotherhood cleric, said that Anan could be an acceptable successor to ousted president Hosni Mubarak because he was perceived as incorruptible.

"He can be the future man of Egypt. I think he will be acceptable ... because he has enjoyed some good reputation. He is not involved in corruption. The people do not know him (as corrupt)." Helbawy said.