Presidential candidate Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s first televised interview on Monday night served as part of a “systematic media campaign” to promote “the candidate of the Egyptian State,” according to Al Ahram Strategic Center’s Ziad Akl.
“Al-Sisi represents the State’s institutions, whose only agenda for the time being is to eliminate the institutional aspect of the Muslim Brotherhood; his statements about the Brotherhood were to convey a message to them,” said Akl, a political analyst at the centre.
Akl added that Al-Sisi supporters have been made to believe, through a systematic media campaign since July, that Al-Sisi, who is part of the Armed Forces institution, is the only solution for the “threat of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
According to Akl, the jurisdictions of the institutions of the Egyptian state have inflated through the years. Aql elaborated that if there was a plan and political will to reform the state’s institutions, there would be hope for Egypt’s development.
A UK specialist on Arab Affairs, Dr H.A. Hellyer commented on the interview saying, “[he] expected more details from Al-Sisi’s first proper interview.” Hellyer criticised the interviewers of Al-Sisi, “despite the fact that the interviewers are well known media characters with experience of interviewing, they had a pretty easy attitude. It was basically up to Al-Sisi to share information or not.”
He added that Al-Sisi consumed significant time focusing on dialogues with ousted President Mohamed Morsi, “who is not available for comment, which leaves no space for discussion.”
Generally, Hellyer described the interview as “vague” and “less interesting to the people”, as he elaborated, “the interview would be unlikely to sway voters’ opinions, because everybody knows he is going to win. It could have been more interesting if he had focused more on his plans for the future, as no one is interested in the past as long as it is not related to the future.”
The interview was the first of a two-episode interview aired jointly between privately-owned satellite channels CBC and ONtv.
The interviewers asked the former Field Marshal about his life growing up, family and background, as well as his platform and vision for the future.
Al-Sisi denied that he had consulted any groups inside or outside Egypt in running for the presidency, and had only notified the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) of his decision.
When asked whether he was the armed forces candidate, Al-Sisi interrupted his interviewer, saying: “I will not tolerate your usage of the word a’askar [military] again.” He added that he was not the presidential candidate of the military, since “the armed forces have never ruled Egypt”.
“A’askar” is the Arabic word for “military”, however, it has a negative connotations for its informality and use by Egyptians when referring to the British occupation force. Post-2011 protesters have used this word to denounce what they have described as military rule under the leadership of SCAF.
When the presidential candidate was questioned regarding the newly proposed Terrorism Law, he said he is willing to do “whatever it takes to restore security”.
Al-Sisi said that all the ministries in the cabinet called for the formation of the Protest Law. “Irresponsible protests will lead to the collapse of the state,” he said, and refused to answer a question on whether he was willing to grant amnesty to Protest Law detainees, if elected.
Al-Sisi claimed that he had warned the former president against granting amnesty to former militant elements. He also claimed that he was threatened by a prominent figure of the Muslim Brotherhood that “fighters would come to Egypt from different parts of the world” in the case that Morsi was ousted.
Al-Sisi announced that voting for him means that “there will be no place for the Muslim Brotherhood during his presidency”.
Al-Sisi stated that “the situation in Sinai” has lasted as long as it did “for the sake of the Sinai residents” and “if it were not for them [the Sinai residents],” the military would have quelled the wave of insurgency earlier. He added that any citizen “should be comforted as long as the Egyptian army still exists”.
Al-Sisi said that he will use the expertise of Egyptian and international experts in the formulation of his presidential platform, including former NASA Scientist Dr Farouk Al-Baz. The presidential candidate added that he is willing to execute Al-Baz’s project, the Path of Development and Reconstruction, among others.
The second and final part of the interview will resume on Tuesday night.