By Mick Krever, CNN
It’s ‘mission impossible,’ Egypt style.
Egyptians will go to the polls next month to elect a new president, but the election of former military chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi seems all but assured.
There is only one man who is taking on the task of challenging el-Sisi: Hamdeen Sabahi.
“Our Egyptian people [are] used [to] accomplishing mission impossible,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour through an interpreter on Wednesday.
“We did that on January 25th and on June 30th. And my mission seems to some impossible like the two others I mentioned.”
The mention of that second date – June 30 – speaks volumes about the state of the Egyptian politics. It is the day that the military deposed Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsy.
President Morsy, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, held office for about a year before unpopular policies and a perception of incompetence took Egypt’s revolutionary history full circle.
Now, Egyptian courts have sentenced hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death in hasty proceedings.
Just this past Monday, a court sentenced 683 Brotherhood supporters to death, pending approval by the nation's grand mufti, Egypt's highest religious authority.
“I want an independent judiciary that is not employed for political purposes,” Sabahi said, adding that such a judiciary would be able to correct wrongful convictions.
“All the innocent people who were imprisoned will be part of my project to release them according to legal proceedings that correct the grievances that they suffered.”
“However, everyone who committed terrorism will be subject to prosecution and the law, the state will take care of them and eradicate them completely.”
Sabahi also said that he would scrap a controversial law enacted last fall, which places severe restrictions on demonstration in Egypt.
“The demonstration law is unconstitutional,” he said. “And I will cancel it as soon as I am elected president.”
“I will issue a law that protects and regulates, not prevents demonstration. And I will release all the innocent people who were convicted according to this unconstitutional law, and particularly college students in Egypt who were angry because of the excessive force used by the police.”
It is unclear, however, that he would treat the Muslim Brotherhood any differently than el-Sisi, or the current powers in Egypt.
“We distinguish between the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization – which is responsible for bloodshed and sponsoring terrorism in Egypt – and mild or moderate Islamists who are peaceful.”
The uprising that brought about the military’s removal of President Morsy, he said, “was a popular revolution.”
“I want Egypt to be a democratic state, free of discrimination on any basis – no discrimination between men and women or between Muslims and Christians or between those who adapt liberal ideology or nationalist ideology or any ideology.”
As stark as Egypt’s political and social divisions are, its economic problems may loom even larger. Massive unemployment, especially among the youth, contributed heavily to Egypt’s recent uprisings.
“The Egyptian economy requires new management,” Sabahi said. “What makes me different is I am clear and that I am decisive that Egypt requires new policies.”
Former President Hosni Mubarak’s policies, he said, are still for the most part in place.
Egypt needs a “successful state – transparent, efficient, young – to replace the old.”
“Corruption has been consuming about three hundred billion Egyptian pounds according to the estimate of the Egyptian government itself, the ones who are in charge of fighting corruption.”
The government also must figure out whether, and how, to reduce the massive and costly subsidies it gives to Egypt’s poor.
“Can any new president,” Amanpour asked, “be brave enough to do that?”
“Subsidizing the commodities for the poor people can be reduced by about two thirds,” Sabahi said, “and the governmental spendings [sic] also can be directed to by a new taxation system that could increase the revenue for the Egyptian economy.”
So does the think he can win?
“We have a generation of youth who is confident and trusts their leadership, and most of whom stand with me,” he said. “We have social powers from poor classes and middle classes that believe that my program is the one that expresses them best.”
“That’s why I am running for these elections and this battle confident that we will accomplish this mission impossible, like the ones we accomplished before.”