CAIRO: Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Egypt’s former defense minister who led the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi last July, has not yet announced his electoral platform, but has spoken extensively about his views and plans for Egypt when interviewed in May 5 and 6 on the CBC and ONtv channels.
Sisi asserted that his decision to run for president was in response to the Egyptian people’s demands, despite his initial unwillingness. During the taped interviews, Sisi said that his priorities if elected president would be security and stability, and said the economy would improve in two years time.
He also used a metaphoric expression of Egypt “jumping” out of its current crisis.
“Walking or running will not be enough to achieve Egypt’s challenges,” Sisi said.
Fighting terrorism and respecting human rights
During his interviews, Sisi promised to achieve a balance between maintaining security and preserving human rights.
He said the ongoing military crackdown against ”terrorists” is due to their arrogant doctrines based on religious ideological exclusiveness and extremism, and the terrifying of opposition figures that they regard as “infidels.”
Quelling the wave of insurgency in the Sinai is and will continue to be slow, he added, because militants live alongside locals and security forces wanted to minimize harm to women, children and the elderly.
He called on Egyptians to support the police and admitted that there were violations of law in the security operations against militants nationwide. He stressed “accountability” principals applied to violators if he was elected.
“People have to understand that there cannot be such serious and confusing security situations without some violations,” Sisi said.
Sisi is in support of the protest law, which aims to regulate protests rather than ban them, he said. Given the challenges Egypt currently faces, a law to organize demonstrations is needed, he said.
He promised to improve security mechanisms to fight “terrorism” and curb chaos, and called upon giving the police the chance to combat militants without the distraction of ”irresponsible protest,” which he said could sabotage the country’s future.
In his taped interview aired on the CBC, Sisi refused to answer a question on whether, if elected, he would grant a presidential pardon to protest law detainees, saying only, “I respect the judiciary.”
He also said that he will do anything to “achieve security.”
Unemployment and bread
Sisi pledged to combat unemployment through government-based projects such as providing youth with pick-up trucks and allowing them to work in transporting goods to and from markets. The youth can pay back the price of the trucks through several low installments, he said.
He also called upon people to ration their use of bread and suggested that every citizen should save one loaf of bread, and cut it into four pieces.
Muslim Brotherhood and reconciliation
Sisi vowed the elimination of the Muslim Brotherhood, saying, “There will be nothing called the Muslim Brotherhood during my tenure.”
He also vowed to eliminate the Brotherhood organization abroad with the help of the international community, and denied plans for reconciliation with the Brotherhood, saying they are the ones who should seek the forgiveness of the Egyptian people.
Copts and minorities
Sisi said he was raised in an area where Jews used to live before they fled Egypt in the 1950’s, and where church bells rang every Sunday. He promised there would be no religion-based discrimination under his rule.
Sisi said he plan to fill the energy deficit and eliminate the problem of a 1,000-megawatt shortage in Egypt’s electricity system, which causes frequent outages throughout the country.
Changing old lamps with new energy saving bulbs in Egyptian households would save 4,000-megawatts, he said. The saved energy would save millions in fuel that could be put toward other subsidies in the state’s general budget, he said.
His energy plan is also focused on solar power, but not in the near future since such equipment is currently unaffordable, he said.
Sisi’s plan for education is based on building 20,000 new schools, revising academic curriculum, and improving living conditions and raising the salaries of teachers.
People with special needs
People with special needs will have priority in any future development plans, he said.
He promised to raise pensions once the economic situation is improved.
Sisi’s plan to boost Egypt’s economy is based on the implementation of a 20-year-old project that was proposed by the Egyptian-American scientist Farouk El Baz, called ”the development corridor.”
The plan is based on re-dividing and expanding Egyptian governorates 35 kilometers westward and eastward toward the Red Sea, which would provide numerous opportunities for the development of new communities, agriculture, industry, trade and tourism, he said.
It is also based on building relevant infrastructure and providing the necessary underground water to increase the cultivation of 4.15 million acres and to ease and grant a fair ownership and distribution of the said lands among Egyptian people, he said.
The plan would also improve the irrigation network in Egypt’s Delta and would save 10 billion cubic meters of water every year, he said. The project includes the construction of 26 news cities and tourist destinations, eight new airports and 22 industrial zones in Egypt, he said.
He also plans to expand the capital city eastward to Ain Sokhna. The entire project is estimated to cost 1 trillion EGP, and the financing of it is a momentous task that would be based on three sources, local rationing and donations of 8 to 9 million EGP from Egyptians abroad, aid from Gulf Cooperation Council states, and local, Arab and international investments supported by fair laws, he said.
Poor and subsidies
Sisi’s platform is based on a gradual removal of subsidies, which he said would not be implemented before raising the income of the individuals. He said that he will install “parallel mechanisms” to control the prices and help low-income people if the private sector isn’t capable of doing it alone.
He also urged the private sector to shrink its profit margin otherwise the army establishment will provide the people with the same commodities at reasonable prices.
Sisi said he will carefully choose his assistants to execute his plans, and his choice will be based on their efficiency, loyalty, honesty and their capability to work hard under pressure.
He also will not rely on people with military backgrounds, he said, except for when it is necessary, such as when appointing governors with a military background for Egypt’s border governorates.
He also promised to engage the parliament in monitoring the military affairs and budget.
Sisi also denied he would reinstate any of the figures of former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, and said that he respects the goals of the January 25 Revolution and events of June 30.
Sisi said he will respect the treaties with Israel and he would even visit Israel if the state showed progress on the Palestinian issue.
He said Egypt-Russia relations will be boosted during his tenure, and pointed out that the Egyptian army is keen to diversify its sources of weaponry.
He also expressed understanding regarding the U.S.’s decision to cut financial aid to Egypt after Morsi was ousted in July, and said Egypt’s bilateral cooperation with the U.S administration will continue.
Sisi also promised to solve the crisis of the Grand Renaissance Dam of Ethiopia through dialogue, and attributed the problem to decades of neglect in Egypt’s relations with African countries.