CAIRO — Egypt’s de facto strongman, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, resigned Wednesday from the military and announced his long-anticipated run for the presidency in an impassioned national address in which he called for his embattled nation to once again become a strong, regional power.

CAIRO — Egypt’s de facto strongman, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, resigned Wednesday from the military and announced his long-anticipated run for the presidency in an impassioned national address in which he called for his embattled nation to once again become a strong, regional power.


El-Sissi, who as the top general in his country’s military led the July 3 ouster of President Mohammed Morsi and then named the transitional government that has ruled since, is all but certain to win the still-unscheduled presidential election. Public opinion surveys show he is the country’s most revered political figure. Under Egypt’s constitution, military officers cannot run for office.


Wearing his military uniform "for the last time," he said, and sitting at a desk, el-Sissi — whose last rank was field marshal — also resigned as defense minister.


Speaking in colloquial Arabic, understood by all Egyptians, regardless of education, his 15-minute speech was ripe with nationalistic language, a reprieve from the divisive, polarized rhetoric that has defined Egypt since Morsi’s ouster. In subsequent violence and government crackdowns, hundreds of people have been killed and at least 16,000 arrested.


"With all due modesty, I announce my intention to run for presidency," el-Sissi said. "I stand in front of you now to give you a speech from the heart."


El-Sissi’s speech seemed aimed at smoothing over the sharp divisions that have reigned here between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the secretive organization that carried Morsi to the presidency in the country’s first democratic presidential election, and the vast number of Egyptians who last summer clamored for Morsi’s ouster.


He called for reconciliation for Islamists who have not been charged with crimes, even as he spoke of the country’s continuing terrorism problem — a hardly veiled reference to the Brotherhood, which has been outlawed.


"No exclusions, no polarization," he said. "I extend my hand to all at home and abroad, all those who have not been convicted."


He repeated three main points: the nation must create more jobs, it must improve its security and it must remember the importance of hope.


"I stand in front of you with all hope in your strong will to push the country back to the place it deserves," el-Sissi said.


At times, el-Sissi sought to present himself like Egypt’s second and most celebrated military leader after the end of British rule in 1952, Col. Gamel Abdel Nasser, who elevated Egypt to a key state in the Arab world. El-Sissi said he hoped to "conquer terrorism, not just in Egypt but in the region." And he, like Nasser, also rejected foreign intervention.


"Egypt is not a playground for any internal, regional or international party and will never be," he said.


Now 59, el-Sissi graduated from the Egyptian Military Academy in 1977 and joined the infantry. But he had little combat experience during his career. Instead, he served in posts such as military attache in Saudi Arabia and chief of staff and then commander of Egypt’s Northern Military Zone. In 2006, he studied at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., where he wrote a paper titled "Democracy in the Middle East," in which he argued that the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had undermined the likelihood of democracy taking root in the region.


In the last months of Mubarak’s three-decade tenure, el-Sissi was head of military intelligence and reconnaissance. He stayed in that post during the military’s first rule of the country immediately after Mubarak’s fall.


In 2011, he became a controversial figure when he defended the military practice of virginity tests, saying they protected the woman and the soldier from false accusations.