Hamdeen Sabahi vows to maintain a "civilian democratic system" in a live TV interview

Marina Barsoum , Friday 9 May 2014

In a live television interview, Hamdeen Sabahi promises to monitor all the country`s institutions including the army and keep a civilian democratic system if he is elected president

Hamdeen Sabahi
Egypt's leftist presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi (Photo: Reuters)

The privately owned television stations CBC and ONTV aired a four-hour, live interview with presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabahi on Thursday evening.

The Nasserist politician discussed many issues with El Watan newspaper`s Editor in Chief and television host, Magdy El Galad, and CBC`s Khairy Ramadan, including the military`s intervention in Egypt`s internal affairs, the Muslim Brotherhood, economic solutions and Egypt`s relations with foreign and Arab countries    

The only competitor in the race is the former defence minister, Abdel Fattah El-Sissi, who is expected to win the elections scheduled for 26-27 May.

The 2012 third place candidate, Sabahi kicked off the interview by introducing himself to all Egyptians.

"I am an Egyptian citizen who loves this country and believes that by its people it will be able to achieve social justice and a free democratic system," said Sabahi.

On why he had chosen to run for the presidency, Sabahi spoke of a vision and a plan that achieves all the demands of the Egyptian citizens.

On whether he believes El-Sisi is a civilian candidate or not, he stated that anyone who nominated themselves to run in the presidential race is civilian.

He added that he felt he represented "the upcoming president of a civilian democratic country."  

To wrap up his introductory segment, Sabahi added that he has lived and worked amongst Egyptian citisens for over 40 years. 

The Army

Unlike El-Sisi, Sabahi explicitly stated that all institutions belonging  to the army should be monitored.

"The army and its budget should definitely be monitored," said Sabahi.  

He stressed that the army should be monitored by parliament just like all other institutions in the country.

Sabahi said that it was the Egyptian people who were the champions of the two revolutions in January 2011 and June 2013; and that the Egyptian military was the backbone that supported Egyptian's will in both movements.

"Since the people were the champions of both revolutions they should be the ones in power and not vice versa," said Sabahi.

He stressed that the role played by the military was crucial and the loyalty of the army to the will of Egyptians cannot be denied.

The leftist candidate then pointed to the army reacting to Egyptian's will and not the other way around. 

"The army should always be with the people`s will, neither leading nor preceding it," stressed Sabahi.

He then highlighted that it is the people`s right to be in power, since they were the ones who protested, faced danger and in some cases died while also explaining that at the same time, Egyptians still respect the military very much.

"Egypt is in need of the protection of the Egyptian army from both internal and external dangers but within limits of not interfering in the political system. I believe that the army is too smart to be pushed into a political conflict," said Sabahi.

Electoral Program

Sabahi pledged to reduce the president’s salary and to build a strong democratic state to remedy “the weak and corrupted old state.”

He also highlighted that he will be saving LE 166 billion from the state`s general budget adding that that he has a detailed plan to achieve this goal.

He also stressed that all the state`s institutions need to be reformed, emphasizing the interior ministry among others.

"I want all the institutions and ministries in Egypt to be compatible and up to a standard that meets the current situation in Egypt, and I have a plan on how to do this," explained Sabahi.

He then said that reforming all the state`s institutions will make the country depend on all of them as opposed to just the military.

Sabahi also said that he will work on offering a life that satisfies any human being.

"I will work on providing good education, a fair wage, insurance and a healthy clean society that Egyptians will be able to work and produce in," he said.

He also spoke of poverty, explaining that as Egypt`s next president, this is an issue with which he will be at war.

Freedom and social justice were other issues that Sabahi addressed, saying that in order for Egyptians to feel respected in their country they have to live in a society that respects the freedom of beliefs and speech.

"I believe that there is injustice in Egypt; women, Nubians, Christians and many others feel oppressed in the Egyptian society," said Sabahi.

 The hopeful candidate also spoke about the small projects that he intends to make in order to solve the overwhelmingly high number of unemployed youth in Egypt.

"It is the country`s responsibility to create job opportunities for those energetic youth who were the heart of the two revolutions in Egypt."

He then gave an example saying that if the state offered 1000 fedans to 1000 young investors along with the necessary funding to begin small projects, then he will have created an opportunity with mutual benefits for the state as well as its unemployed youth. 

The Protest Law

Sabahi said that he believes that the protest law is unconstitutional saying that if he became Egypt`s next president he will amend it.

"If I win in the elections, I will definitely amend the protest law so that it organizes the protests and the sit-ins as opposed to prohibiting them," explained Sabahi.

He also said that it is part of the president's constitutional responsibility to amend any unjust law.

He also believes that it is unjust to see many figures of the revolution in prison because of the protest law, while many of the ousted President Mubarak figures are "outside jail enjoying life."

The Muslim Brotherhood  

Sabahi said that he will not accept any existence of members from the Brotherhood in Egypt as they have promoted the use of violence and terror since the ouster of the Islamist president last June.

"Some supporters of my counter candidate believe that I am linked to or supporting the Brotherhood, and I want to clarify that during Morsi's presidency I was part of the revolutionary forces that were against him while your candidate was his defence minister," said Sabahi.

Sabahi also said that Morsi had asked him to become the president`s deputy, however, he refused because he believes that his role was and has always been in the streets among Egyptians.

Egypt`s foreign policy and relations with Arab countries

At the end of the interview, Sabahi was asked to briefly state how he would handle relations with Qatar, Syria, Turkey and Hamas if he were elected to the presidency.

He answered saying "I would ask Qatar to apologize to Egypt, I would call for unity in Syria and I would tell Erdogan that Egypt is bigger than the terrorist group that you are backing."

Speaking of Hamas, he said that he would not tolerate anyone threatening Egypt`s internal security.

With regards to Camp David, Sabahi stated that he always opposed it but will still honor all treaties made between Egypt and all other countries.

Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

As for the issue concerning the Ethiopian high dam, Sabahi said that he has felt the problem could be addressed diplomatically.

"I will call all Nile basin countries for a summit in Egypt  to come together to draft a solution that will satisfy all countries," explained Sabahi.

He also said that he will not accept that Egypt`s share from the Nile decreases. 

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