Egyptian army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sissi resigned from his post as defense minister on Wednesday and declared his candidacy for president.
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Sissi met with military leaders earlier in the day, prior to announcing his decision, a necessary step in running for president.
Sissi, who as chief of staff deposed president Mohamed Morsi in July last year, is widely expected to win the election.
Sissi, 59, is popular among Egyptians who supported the army's decision to remove Morsi from power one year into his term. But he is reviled by the Islamist opposition, which sees him as the mastermind of a coup against an elected leader and the author of a crackdown on dissent.
The authorities have yet to set a date for the presidential election, which is expected to begin before the end of March. President Adly Mansour has said that a new president will be announced before July 17.
General Sedki Sobhi, who holds the post of chief of staff, is expected to replace Sissi as army chief and defense minister.