Next for Egypt's military leader: Running for president?

But in a country where the only leader in six decades not to have a military background was just deposed in a coup, many say they would not be surprised if the charismatic Sissi decided to throw his high-brimmed officer’s hat into the ring. Some supporters are hailing him as a new Gamal Abdel Nasser, the revered general who led the 1952 coup that overthrew Egypt’s monarchy.

“I think it’s hugely tempting for anyone,” said a high-ranking Western official, referring to the possibility that Sissi might take his popularity to the polls. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.

The clamor to bring Sissi into the presidential palace is ironic, critics here say, given that many of his advocates were bitter foes of the military-backed rule of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, a former air force commander. Public support also quickly soured for the armed-forces council that temporarily ruled after Mubarak was toppled in the 2011 revolution.

After Morsi’s inauguration in June 2012, Sissi was seen as a man who would be willing to work with the Muslim Brotherhood despite decades in which the military had persecuted the organization. Sissi, considered by acquaintances who have talked faith with him to be deeply religious without being dogmatic, was considered a natural ally for Morsi, who was struggling to assert civilian control over the army.