CAIRO: Presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi said his vision for Egypt is “a state based on democracy and secularism, patriotism and Arabism, an ideology which takes into consideration accurate calculations on the present moment, bigger dreams for the future, without disconnecting from the past,” during an interview aired both on Mehwar TV and Jordan TV channels on Sunday.
Sabbahi, head of the Popular Current Party and co-founder of the Karama Party, declared his intention to run for presidential elections a few weeks ago. For a short while, he was the first and only candidate to publicly make such an announcement.
During the interview Sunday, Sabbahi was asked about his ideas for the forthcoming phase. He spoke of his determination to link the January 25 Revolution with the events of June 30, and to combine both events into a wider revolutionary context in Egypt and the entire Arab region.
Sabbahi said the fact that he has been inspired by former President Gamal Abdel Nasser “is no secret,” but it is also something he does not openly speak about. What Egypt must take from “Nasserism” is its ideology, he said, “which recognizes the importance of Nasserism as a popular movement, while on the other hand admits that with great success comes great failure.”
When he was a student at Cairo University, Sabbahi lived under the regime of former President Anwar Sadat but was very active in politics and founded a club based on Nasser’s ideologies. In 1977, he notably disagreed with Sadat in a public debate, blaming him for drifting away from Nasser’s heritage. He was president of Cairo University’s student union at the time.
Sabbahi said he aims to restore Egypt’s position in the Arab world, which will also have an important impact on boosting the country’s economy.
“My project is establishing Egyptian patriotism within an Arab identity, which represents the demands of the revolution, which are freedom, bread, social justice and human dignity. The real challenge of a revolution is not in bringing down a regime, it’s in building up a new regime,” Sabbahi said.
During the television interview Sabbahi spoke of specific tactics such as the need to “protect our Arab nation from any foreign interference, and to protect Syria from terrorist invasions. Qatar must once again become part of the Arab nation.” But Qatar needs to apologize to Egypt to do so, he said.
Sabbahi said more than once during the interview that he is determined to “achieve revolutionary demands,” adding that foremost is the seeking of social justice; real incorporation of youth in the economy through the support of small and medium enterprises, which would also decrease the need for foreign investment; and the importance of integrating the private sector and civil society.
He ran for president in the elections of 2013 and lost in the first round. He is running again this year despite strong public support for Deputy Prime Minister Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is most recognized for his role in the events of June 30 against Muslim Brotherhood rule.
“Sisi is welcome to take part in a real democratic competition,” Sabbahi said.