Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour says the days of a “pharaoh president” are over.
In an interview with Mohamed Abdel-Hady Allam, editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram's daily Arabic newspaper, Mansour said the country’s new constitution establishes a balance of power that holds the president accountable to parliament, giving it the power to depose the executive if necessary.
Mansour discussed many topics in the interview, including the next Egyptian president, the fate of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood as well as changes in Egypt's politics and foreign policy.
The coming president
Mansour said the next president will enjoy strong popular backing which will enable him to make difficult but necessary decisions to "develop our society and economy and fulfil the aspirations of Egyptians."
He said he decided to hold presidential elections before parliamentary polls because of popular demand and discussions with representatives of various groups.
Mansour said he believes the coming political leadership should be strong and charismatic, but he insisted that the country's fate should be tied to institutional rules and not a particular person.
When asked for his opinion about army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi – the defence minister widely expected to run for president – Mansour said that El-Sisi enjoys immense popularity due to his role in the 30 June transition that ousted Mohamed Morsi and, he said, corrected the path of the 25 January 2011 revolution.
Mansour didn't confirm or deny whether El-Sisi will run in the upcoming presidential elections. A statement from the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) earlier this month mandating El-Sisi's presidential bid has been taken by observers as a sign that his nomination is imminent.
As for Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, subject to a severe crackdown from security forces that has landed many of its members in jail and its top leaders facing multiple trials of terrorism and murder, Mansour said that a reconciliation with the group is subject to the will of Egyptians as the "era of unilateral decision making has passed."
However, he said that the chance for reconciliation has been destroyed after months of violence. The Brotherhood has consistently denied any links to the spate of recent attacks on security forces, notably a series of bomb blasts on police buildings in Cairo and Mansoura, and until now the group has not been formally charged for the bombings.
Since 30 June, the government has been challenged by international accusations that the army staged a coup in Morsi's removal. Mansour praised the foreign ministry for changing the perspective of international powers on the issue.
Mansour said that Egypt’s state institutions base decisions on national interest and the will of the Egyptian people.
When asked about the US, a close ally for decades, Mansour stressed that strong relations are just as much in Egypt's interests as they are to the US's.
"I want to reconfirm that Egypt after 30 June is independent, and that the priority of its president and government is its people and their will, and we don't care about anyone if their stances come in contradiction with Egypt's interests," Mansour said, adding that the US has gradually changed its unfavourable stance to the events since 30 June.
The US has gotten the message that the Egyptians will not accept interference in internal affairs, Mansour said. He said that the US is now aware of the "truth" about what has happened since 30 June and that its leaders support the current political road map.
Mansour also said that Egypt is strengthening its relationship with Russia, a country with historic links to Egypt. He mentioned the Soviet Union's help with building the Aswan High Dam and preparing for the 1973 war with Israel, but nevertheless insisted that the changing relationship with Russia is by no means a replacement for other countries.
Russia's foreign and defence ministers visited Egypt in November. Mansour said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who voiced his country's support for Egypt’s democratic transition.