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El-Sissi would head a broken political system. After Mubarak’s fall, Islamists had the strongest political parties, particularly Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, and dominated elections the past three years. Most of them will likely continue to boycott politics for the foreseeable future. That leaves the field to the fragmented and weak secular-leaning parties, which have little grassroots support.

Little is known about el-Sissi’s private life. His wife, Intissar, a cousin he married nearly 30 years ago, has never been seen in the media. The couple has three sons and a daughter. Two of his sons and his daughter graduated from the military college, and the third son works in the Administrative Oversight Agency.

El-Sissi grew up in Cairo’s el-Gamaliya district, a centuries-old neighborhood of historic mosques immortalized in the novels of Egypt’s Nobel literature laureate Naguib Mahfouz. Nearby is the historic bazaar Khan el-Khalili, a main tourist attraction, and el-Sissi’s father had a shop selling wooden antiques. The bazaar has been hit hard since tourists largely disappeared in the turmoil since Mubarak’s ouster, and its streets are plastered with el-Sissi posters now, with shopowners hoping he can bring stability.

One neighbor, Ali Hossan, who now runs one of the pro-el-Sissi campaign offices, remembered him as “very quiet and not sociable,” focused on two things - his studies and helping in his father’s shop.

One critic, Ahmed Maher, the leader of the secular youth activist group April 6, which led protests against Mubarak, sarcastically gave his backing to an el-Sissi run in a letter from prison, saying it would fuel a new revolution against the military. Maher was jailed in December to serve a three-year prison sentence for violating a new draconian law virtually banning protests. He blamed el-Sissi for abuses of detained protesters during the anti-Mubarak uprising.

“Let us see the blunt rule of the military instead of the concealed one,” he wrote.