Sabbahi calls for candidate debate with El-Sisi ahead of Egypt's presidential poll

Ahram Online, Saturday 15 Feb 2014

Military leader El-Sisi has yet to announce his candidacy in the upcoming elections

Hamdeen Sabbahi (Left) and army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Leading leftist figure Hamdeen Sabbahi, the only candidate so far in Egypt's presidential elections, has invited army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to take part in a live debate should the latter decided to run.

Sabbahi, during his participation in Tahrir Salon TV programme Saturday, reiterated that El-Sisi shouldn't run for the presidency, in order to keep his "stature."

Army chief El-Sisi, who has grown increasingly popular for the role he played in the ouster of Islamist president Mohamd Morsi last year amid nationwide protests, is widely tipped to run in Egypt's upcoming presidential elections and assume power.

Should he take part in the elections, the presidential race will be a "serious game," Sabbahi added, refuting suggestions that El-Sisi would win the elections hands down, as many analysts and observers predict.

"It's not a done deal as many think," he said. "The people are capable of choosing [a candidate] based on their knowledge of history."

"I am sure that the right decision after the revolution is to establish a state that serves the people, and not a state that is served by people," added Sabbahi, who finished third in the 2012 presidential polls, after ex-Mubarak premier Ahmed Shafiq and eventual winner Mohamed Morsi.

The former parliamentarian, widely considered a prominent revolutionary figure and a staunch opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, went on to underline that he wouldn't allow competition with El-Sisi over the presidency to turn into a face-off between revolutionary groups and the army.

El-Sisi has been recently empowered by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to run for president, but he hasn't confirmed yet his intention to run.

In his first trip outside the country since Morsi's ouster, El-Sisi met with Russian leaders in Moscow last week to discuss a planned $2 billion arms deal.

Commenting on El-Sisi's Russia trip, Sabbahi said he believes it was a "positive step" for Egypt, saying relations with world powers must be strengthened.

"The trip reconfigures Egypt's foreign relations, and stops it leaning to the West," he commented, referring to Egypt's relation with the US, which has been strong for decades but appeared to be strained since Morsi's ouster.

Further praising El-Sisi, Sabbahi talked about their only meeting.

"It was before the minimum wage was applied. It was a very good meeting where El-Sisi heard me carefully," he said.

"We had a long discussion on social justice... the government at the time said a LE1,200 minimum wage won't be possible in the budget, but one day after meeting him it was approved."

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