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‘Mission impossible’: Meet Hamdeen Sabahi, the only man challenging El-Sisi for Egypt’s presidency

April 30th, 2014
02:57 PM ET

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.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Egypt • Latest Episode
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. mina

    anyone of them is better than the former MB puppet

    April 30, 2014 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  2. Douglas

    The Egyptian military wants to go back to the same ARMY or Hosni Mubarak regime or arrangement (STILL ARMY COUNTRY)

    May 1, 2014 at 8:08 am | Reply
  3. I.K. Chingon

    The article doesn’t even identify who Hamdeen Sabahi is, or what his background is — you call that journalism …?

    May 1, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Reply
    • agenius

      if you've any familiarity with the events in Egypt over the past 3 years, you know who Sabahi is. If you don't, well, what can I say : ).

      May 2, 2014 at 2:03 pm | Reply
  4. Wessam Abraham

    Because This Man cannot make even a press or media interview , WE WANT CC !!!

    May 1, 2014 at 4:25 pm | Reply
  5. Unknow

    the english omg

    May 1, 2014 at 7:20 pm | Reply
  6. azza radwan sedky

    Dream on, Christian, dream on. Egyptians want Sisi whether you promote Sabbahi or the devil himself. Oh, and of course, no matter what you say about Morsi, the man was the worse thing that happened to Egypt. The issue is why is the western world against the man that Egyptians revere.
    See "What Egyptians revere him so?"

    May 2, 2014 at 2:00 am | Reply
  7. Frank

    Only can agree that Morsi was the worst thing happen to Egypt in the whole history and it would be interesting why America is still playing that card, why CNN is still supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and the false journalism of Al Jezzirah. By the way it was the right thing that these journalists are jailed and waiting for trial.

    May 5, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Reply
  8. ayman

    let egypt and egyptian choose their way and kind of democracy they want is a big country with a huge rich culture , the amricans will not come now and force them again to choose someone who is a terrorist like morsi ...this is was a huge mistake from the american foregin affairs and egypt was on edge for a civil war ...

    May 5, 2014 at 5:09 pm | Reply
    • Essam M. Toson.

      Can't agree any more friend... But can any one justified the double standard of US politics in the whole universe ? Not just in the Middle East in supporting Israel blindly even tho arming and allowing them to have a nuclear weapon but refusing strongly any other nation to even think about making it !!!!
      It's so shameful the American politics and so their media.... They've NO SHAME AT ALL ..

      May 9, 2014 at 11:22 pm | Reply
  9. Lotfi

    Christian Amanpoor, it is realy a shame when a renown journalist like you provide a report fraught of falsehood and clear bias. You could have said help or aid in stead of "handout". Also if you have done some homework you would have found out that it is not true that 500 some people were sentenced to death, I know you picked it up from AlJazera, shame.I think it will do you a lot of good to make an honest to god report by visiting egypt and listening to the real egyptian instead of depending on Aljazera and MB lies. They are terrorist and liers and in one year harmed Egypt in an awful way. May be one day you will report the facts about what is happening in Egypt.

    June 1, 2014 at 5:57 am | Reply
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