“I swear by God that I am ready to don combat fatigues and fight side by side” with the security forces, said Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, a general-turned-president. “We either live together or die together.”
By: AP and World Israel News Staff
Up for re-election in less than two weeks, Egypt’s president on Thursday took center stage at a televised ceremony commemorating the country’s martyrs, declaring his readiness to personally join the war against Islamic terror.
“I swear by God that I am ready to don combat fatigues and fight side by side” with the security forces, said Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, a general-turned-president. “We either live together or die together,” he added.
Al-Sisi has yet to do any traditional campaigning for the March 26-28 election, such as addressing rallies or doing TV ads. With his win all but certain, he has apparently opted instead for televised appearances — Thursday’s ceremony lasted about five hours — in which he presides over official functions during which he addresses the nation.
With the outcome of the election a foregone conclusion — Al-Sisi’s only challenger is a little-known politician who supports him — he and his supporters have been tirelessly urging voters to come out and cast their ballots since a high turnout will accord the vote legitimacy.
In comments made Wednesday, he said he would rather win a third of the vote with a good turnout than every vote with a low turnout. A good turnout would contribute to Egypt’s stability and freedom, he said. Voting for Egyptian expatriates begins Friday.
With al-Sisi not campaigning, the only sign of an imminent election is the tens of thousands of banners bearing the incumbent’s image that have sprung up across the country.
Banners for his challenger, Moussa Mustafa Moussa, number only in the dozens in Cairo, a city of some 18 million people.
“What is happening, to be exact, is a one-man referendum,” Abdullah el-Sinnawy, a political analyst and one-time Al-Sisi supporter, wrote Thursday in the independent Al-Shorouk daily.
Hugging the children of fallen soldiers
In Thursday’s ceremony, a visibly moved al-Sisi listened as mothers and widows remembered their loved ones who fell in the fight against terrorists. He warmly greeted them, briefly chatting with each one or, in some cases, placing a kiss on their heads.
He hugged the children of the fallen soldiers and carried one of them, a small girl in military uniform, across the hall and sat her next to him amid applause. Later, a boy, also in military fatigues, joined him.
Photos later released by the presidency showed al-Sisi feeding cookies to the two children as their mothers looked on during a break from the ceremony.
His patriotism, of which an extreme version has swept Egypt under his rule, was also on display Thursday,
Of the fallen, al-Sisi said: “It’s a price that is dear to us, but not too dear for the sake of Egypt.” He has also warned that the whole Arab world would suffer if Egypt was to fall in the hands of terrorists.
“We are 100 million. We are the heart of the (Arab) nation.”
Egypt’s security forces have been battling a decade-long Islamist insurgency, which has intensified since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohamed Morsi in July, 2013.
The insurgency has been mainly concentrated in the north of the Sinai