Presidential Hopeful Abdel Fattah El-Sisi (Photo: Al Ahram)
Presidential hopeful Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Thursday that Egypt's increasing population was one of the country's most pressing problems, state news agency MENA reported.
In a meeting with a group from the National Population Council (NPC), the former general also spoke about democracy, corruption, fair opportunity and investing manpower for an economic leap.
Speaking to a group of experts, he equated the rise in corruption with the vanishing of the middle class, which he said destroys accountability in state institutions and individuals.
"The middle class in society has suffered a great deal because of low incomes and their inability to fulfil their demands, which is what contributed to rising levels of corruption," El-Sisi said.
A quarter of Egypt's 85 million people live under the poverty line.
He said fighting corruption in the immediate future will depend on convincing people to forgo excess and that hard work and dedication are the basis of excellence.
He added that addressing a nation's problems takes time and effort before any changes can be seen.
"Corruption increased because of scarcity, deteriorating levels of education and culture and the detachment of religious speech from reality," he said. "Religion, in its wider sense, is inclusive … we should represent God in a good way through our deeds and words."
"Democracy in its right meaning means the people's will and their free choice," he said. "No one can pressure Egyptians or force a certain ideology on them."
El-Sisi, who left his job as defence minister in March to run for president, is widely expected to win the race, scheduled for 26-27 May.
His only opponent in the presidential contest is leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi.
The official campaigning period starts Saturday.