Egypt set to have presidential elections first

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An al-Qaida inspired group that previously operated mostly in Sinai, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or Champions of Jerusalem, claimed responsibility for most of the attacks.

In a qualitative change of operations if it is verified, the group claimed responsibility for downing a military helicopter in Sinai Saturday that killed five crewmen. El-Sissi attended their funeral Sunday. Authorities say they are still investigating the causes of the crash.

Even secular groups who are against the general’s bid for office consider it essential to have presidential elections before a parliamentary vote. Hossam Mounes, a member of the Popular Current, which backs a civilian candidate for president, said the presidential vote will give the current authorities “clear legitimacy.”

“Parliamentary elections at this stage will only add to the divisions and fragmentation of the political groups,” Mounes said, adding that securing that vote will also be less of a security challenge.

He argued however against an el-Sissi bid for office, criticizing his management of the transition so far.

“He is an unknown person. We don’t know his positions regarding political issues because of his military post. We have not heard his views on economic issues or foreign affairs.”

But with growing anxiety over the continued turmoil, calls for el-Sissi to run have only grown. The thousands who hit the streets to support him adhere to a widespread media narrative that portrays him as a strongman who can deal with the country’s myriads of problems - restoring stability and legitimizing the interim government installed after Morsi’s ouster.

“I describe him as the man for this anxious moment,” said Abdullah el-Sinawi, a commentator on military affairs.

The general has not yet made a formal announcement. He would have to quit his post as defense minister before launching a campaign for the presidency. Under the new constitution, a president can serve a maximum of two four-year terms.

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Associated Press Writer Maggie Hyde contributed to this report from Cairo.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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