An obscure political action group has started a controversial campaign in Egypt demanding the country's military ruler, Hussein Tantawi, run for president.
"We originally planned to launch the campaign around one month ago, but regrettable incidents in Egypt prompted us to delay it," Mahmoud Attia, an official in the self-styled group "Egypt Is above Everyone" said.
Attia said his group aims to collect one million signatures to support their request for Tantawi to stand for the presidency.
Tantawi created a stir several months ago when he was seen in mufti walking Cairo's streets without his security detail. The move started rumors, which Tantawi denies, that he plans to enter politics in 2013.
An interim military junta headed by Tantawi has been running Egypt's affairs since February, when a popular uprising unseated Egypt's long-standing president Hosni Mubarak. In recent months the junta has been criticized from many quarters over its perfomance and doubts about its agenda.
Attia’s pro-Tantawi group, dubbing their campaign "A Popular Demand for Stability," claims they represent the "silent majority" among Egyptians who see the top military commander as the most qualified one to lead the country to "genuine democracy."
"Field Marshal [Tantawi] and the military council have protected the (anti-Mubarak) revolution from being aborted by the former regime. This is his best credential for winning presidency," Attia told the independent newspaper Al Masry Al Youm.
Attia added that his group would distribute thousands of leaflets soon to explain its objectives to the public.
Rumors have already begun swirling in Cairo, however, that the group may be stalking horse for Tantawi and his allies in the junta, who do not want to be seen as actively pursuing the retention of their current power when Egypt transitions to an elected government.
Egypt's junta, whose policies have aimed at maintaining the status quo, has been faced with a tide of populist sentiment driven by Islamism, radicalism, and anti-Israel and anti-Westernism demanding changes the generals sees as potentially undermining Egypt's position as a significant military and economic actor in the region.
Tantawi's junta did has yet to respond to the report.