DAVOS, Switzerland — Egypt’s prime minister said Thursday the spirit of the Arab Spring was still alive in his country and that the army chief likely to run for the presidency was no dictator, but more a De Gaulle figure.
“This was a great revolution,” Hazem el-Beblawi said at a Davos World Economic Forum seminar.
Egypt has been caught up in a high-stakes political crisis ever since a coup last year led by army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power, with much of their leadership now behind bars.
Beblawi strongly rejected a suggestion that Sissi was merely a new Hosni Mubarak, the strongman who ruled Egypt for 30 years.
“The difference is great,” the prime minister said. “Before Mubarak ran for the presidency, no one knew him.”
“Sissi is under popular pressure to run. This is like De Gaulle, like Eisenhower,” he said, referring to the French and US war heroes who later took political office.
In Egypt, Sissi is viewed as a savior by the millions who took to the streets against the Muslim Brotherhood, but the followers of the Islamists revile him for what they say was a “coup” against Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi.
Morsi supporters have staged regular protests demanding his reinstatement despite a brutal government crackdown that has left more than 1,000 people killed since his ouster in July.
Sissi meanwhile has said he would run for the presidency if there was a popular demand.
“Those that are pushing Sissi to run are not the military camps, they are people in the streets, women in the first place,” Beblawi said.
“Don’t forget he is a handsome man,” he added.