Egypt’s top military body has given its approval for army chief Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to run for the presidency, state media report.
Field Marshal Sisi led the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, in July.
He is expected to accept the nomination from the Supreme Council for Armed Forces (Scaf) and resign from his military position within days.
Earlier, the interim president promoted him from general to field marshal.
Three years after the revolution of 2011 swept away the military strongman, Hosni Mubarak, Egypt could soon by ruled by another.
The newly minted Field Marshal, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, has no experience of war but has shown himself to be a skilled political tactician.
He became a national hero, for some, after he ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in a popularly backed coup last July.
His popularity has spawned a cult, and his image adorns everything from mugs and T-shirts to chocolates and pyjamas.
To supporters, the softly-spoken former military intelligence chief is a strong leader who can restore stability after years of unrest. To critics he is a military hardliner who is returning Egypt to the repression of the past, with mass arrests and killings by the security forces.
Saviour or villain, his victory looks all but guaranteed. But he will inherit a deeply divided country, and a failing economy. Without quick solutions he too could face the wrath of the people.
Field Marshal Sisi is popular with much of the Egyptian public and analysts say he would be expected to win the presidential election, to be held by late April.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of people joined a rally in Cairo to mark the anniversary of the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak and call on Field Marshal Sisi to stand.
The BBC’s Orla Guerin in Cairo says many Egyptians see him as being the strongman needed to pull their country out of its political crisis, but that others fear his election could mark a return to the authoritarianism the revolution sought to end.
Saturday also saw widespread anti-government protests, with dozens of people killed in clashes and arrests reported in several cities.
Field Marshal Sisi served as defence minister under Mr Morsi, but spearheaded the military intervention which removed him after mass street protests.
Earlier this month a new constitution, replacing one introduced under Mr Morsi, was overwhelmingly approved in a referendum.
The military-backed government said the vote had been an ”unrivalled success” but critics say the document favours the army at the expense of the people, and fails to deliver on the 2011 revolution that led to the fall of Mubarak.
The banned Muslim Brotherhood, which Mr Morsi comes from and which boycotted the referendum, dismissed it as a ”farce”.
Under the constitution:
- The president may serve two four-year terms and can be impeached by parliament
- Islam remains the state religion – but freedom of belief is absolute, giving some protection to minorities
- The state guarantees ”equality between men and women”
- Parties may not be formed based on ”religion, race, gender or geography”
- Military to appoint defence minister for next eight years.