Presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabahy announced his intention to challenge Egypt’s army chief to a debate if the latter decided to run for president, while stating that he thought the commander-in-chief of the armed forces would be better off remaining in his position.
In a television interview on Al-Tahrir satellite channel, Sabahy praised Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and Minister of Defence Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s visit to Moscow this past week, saying that it was an important step in the “deepening” and diversification of Egypt’s foreign policy.
Sabahy also stressed the importance of Palestine, also saying that “when [Gaza-based] Hamas affects the security of Egypt, it also affects the Palestinian cause.”
He also said the Syrian revolution had been “stolen by extremist groups trying to achieve their own interests” and that Egypt needed to prevent foreign aggression on Syrian land.
Sabahy, who many expect will run against Al-Sisi in upcoming presidential elections, said he did not want competition during elections “to turn into a rift between the people and its revolutionary and military strength,” adding that at his official launch of his campaign there would be a “binding code of conduct” to “ensure fair and honest competition based on morality.”
He wished Al-Sisi well, saying that when he met him, Sabahy felt “he was patriotic”. He added that he did not take the path of other presidential candidates who said they would withdraw if Al-Sisi were to run for the presidency. He called Al-Sisi to a debate ahead of the poll, saying that a “debate between the candidates is a right for the people.”
While Al-Sisi would be favoured in an election, Sabahy maintained that “the results of the presidential election are not a foregone conclusion as is thought by many analysts.”
Sabahy expressed his thoughts that Al-Sisi would be better off not running for the presidency saying that his military role “has brought him to a historic position,” adding that “the best way to preserve this historic position is to remain in it.”
He said he “respected” friends who have chosen to support others in the upcoming elections. He added that once he submitted his official papers he would cease to be an active member in Al-Tayar Al-Sha’aby or Al-Karama Party.
He stressed the importance of taxation that helped the poor, saying that the rich currently benefit from energy subsidies.
“The submission of the poor must end,” Sabahy said.
He also condemned the detention of “revolutionary youth” and wrongful arrests.
“We have to release the children of the revolution from prisons and stop all forms of improper treatment of any prisoner,” he said, adding that. “It it possible that I share with Field Marshal Al-Sisi joint work in social justice, but I think that my project will be closer to the people.”
Sabahy met a delegation from the European Union to discuss political and economic developments.
Christian Berger, director of the European External Action Service for North Africa, the Middle East, Arab Peninsula, Iran, and Iraq; James Moran, head of the European Union delegation to Egypt, and his deputy Reinhold Brender, met with Sabahy “to discuss ways to strengthen economic and trade relations between Egypt and the EU,” according to a statement issued by Sabahy’s Al-Tayar Al-Sha’aby.
The two sides also discussed the promotion of European investments in Egypt in the fields of solar energy and tourism.
In the meeting, Sabahy emphasised the importance of economic development, an environment conducive to democracy, and the implementation of serious plans to combat corruption, adding that the “crisis in Egypt lies in the poor management of its resources.”
The presidential candidate said that “the Egyptian army is a partner in building a modern national state,” citing references in Egypt’s history when the military advanced Egypt during the times of Mohamed Ali, Ahmed Oraby, and Gamal Abdel Nasser.
On Saturday Al-Tayar Al-Sha’aby issued a statement condemning the alleged storming of its headquarters in the Daqahleya village of Shaha, accusing “thugs” of terrorising the group. It also condemned security forces’ dispersal of Sabahy campaigners in Alexandria, calling on authorities to investigate the incident.
Al-Tayar Al-Sha’aby, founded by Sabahy, announced its official support for him last week. The Tamarod movement, on the other hand, announced its support for Al-Sisi.
Earlier this month, three members of the pro-Sabahy group were detained for approximately six hours, claiming they were apprehended by police because their car bore a photo of the presidential candidate.
The group said it refused extreme security measures infringing on public freedoms and a “return to repressive security practises.”
The prominent Nasserist politician ran in the 2012 presidential elections, finishing in third place in the first round. He later became a leading member of the National Salvation Front, a coalition of political parties that called for demonstrations against ousted president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.