CAIRO - Egypt’s ex-army chief and leading presidential candidate Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Monday the Muslim Brotherhood movement of deposed leader Mohamed Morsi was ‘finished’ in Egypt and would not return if he was elected.
Following the Sisi-led army ouster of Morsi in July, the Brotherhood has been banned, its leaders arrested and more than 1,400 people, mostly Islamist backers of Morsi, killed in protest clashes. ‘I did not finish it, you Egyptians finished it,’ Sisi said in his first television interview since announcing his candidacy when asked if the Brotherhood was ‘finished’.
Asked if he were saying it would not exist under his presidency, he responded: ‘Yes.’ Sisi’s remarks ruled out any chances of reconciliation with the blacklisted Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. The movement, which swept all elections since the 2011 fall of longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak, has already been blacklisted as a ‘terrorist organisation’ by the military-installed authorities.
Sisi, dressed in a suit and appearing composed and often smiling in what was a pre-recorded interview, said Egyptians had rejected the group’s ideology and would not allow it to return. The retired field marshal also said in what was the first part of the interview that if he was elected the army would ‘not have a role in ruling Egypt’, adding that he was not a candidate of the army. Aside from Morsi, all of Egypt’s previous presidents have come from military ranks, including Mubarak who was toppled following a popular 18-day uprising in early 2011. Sisi’s only rival in the upcoming election is leftist leader Hamdeen Sabbahi who has often raised concerns that Egypt was returning to the autocratic era witnessed under Mubarak.
These concerns grew after some leading symbols of the anti-Mubarak revolt were jailed by the interim authorities for organising unlicensed protests. Last month an Egyptian court even banned the April 6 youth movement which had spearheaded the anti-Mubarak revolt. Groups such as April 6 have increasingly protested against the interim government, accusing it of restricting freedom while giving police a free hand to crush dissent.
Egypt’s interim authorities had justified the ouster of Morsi following mass protests against his divisive one-year rule. Sisi is riding a wave of popularity after ousting Morsi on July 3 after millions took to the streets demanding the Islamist’s resignation.
But the ouster of Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, and an ensuing police crackdown on his supporters and the Muslim Brotherhood has deeply polarised the country. Morsi and most of the top leadership of his Muslim Brotherhood have also been put on trial. When asked, meanwhile, if he had faced any assassination attempts, Sisi without elaborating said: ‘Two attempts’. The interview’s second part will be broadcast on Tuesday.