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INTERVIEW-Former presidential hopeful predicts new Egypt revolt

Source: Reuters - Tue, 11 Feb 2014 15:01 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Islamist politician fears economic collapse

* Predicts Brotherhood will survive repression

* Calls for dialogue, democracy

By Yasmine Saleh and Michael Georgy

CAIRO, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Egyptians will rise up against military rule because of widespread human rights abuses and economic hardships, former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh said on Tuesday.

Egypt's political transition and its economy have stumbled since the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

In July, army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted the country's first freely elected president, Mohamed Mursi, after mass protests against his rule. A severe crackdown on Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood and any other opponents of the army-backed government has followed. Egypt remains unstable.

"The people will get angry again and stage a revolution to oust this repression. The Egyptian people will not accept the current situation," said Abol Fotouh, a former Brotherhood member who came fourth in the 2012 election won by Mursi.

"The current repression is 10 times worse than Mubarak's time," he told Reuters in an interview.

Abol Fotouh, 62, is one of the few Islamists left in public life since the crackdown that has landed Mursi and many of his allies in jail. Hundreds of his supporters have been killed.

Abol Fotouh said Mubarak loyalists are back with a vengeance and are determined to crush freedoms gained since the 2011 revolt to protect their interests and corrupt practices.

"What is happening now is a counter-revolution against the January revolution but it won't continue. The revolution will return," said the retired physician, adding that Egypt had become a failed state.

"There will be no stability for this region except through freedom and democracy. Without this there will be chaos and violence."

"BRAINWASHED"

Abol Fotouh said he had decided not to run for president because the authorities had created what he called a republic of fear, and the state and private media, funded by Mubarak era-businessmen, had created an uneven playing field.

"It is set for Sisi to win. Sisi photos have been hung in all of Egypt's streets for months," said Abol Fotouh, who heads the Strong Egypt party. "How can I compete against that?"

Sisi has not confirmed he will run, but is widely expected to win a landslide victory in the election due within months.

He has enthusiastic support from many Egyptians who were relieved to see an end to Mursi's rule, but is reviled by the Islamist president's sympathisers as the leader of a coup.

Abol Fotouh said Sisi's popularity was artificial and that Egyptians had been brainwashed, but that they would lose patience once again if the country kept to its present course.

"Egypt could enter an economic collapse if the situation remains like this," he said. "What keeps it going is the Gulf money that keeps coming from here and there but which will not last forever...It is humiliating for Egypt to keep begging."

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, deeply suspicious of the Brotherhood, withheld aid during Mursi's rule but gave Egypt billions of dollars after he was deposed.

Abol Fotouh was a senior member of the Brotherhood until 2011, when the movement expelled him after he decided to stage an independent bid for the presidency.

Jailed under Mubarak, he was fiercely critical of Mursi during his one-year presidency and called for early presidential elections before the army removed him on July 3.

Activists from Abol Fotouh's party were detained while campaigning against a new constitution approved in a referendum in January.

Abol Fotouh said it would be hard for the government to wipe out the Brotherhood, which has survived decades of repression by past Egyptian leaders, all of them military men, except Mursi.

He urged the Brotherhood and the army to compromise and hold talks to stabilise the Arab world's biggest nation.

"The Muslim Brotherhood says they have one million members and if each one has five or 10 people sympathising with him, what could be done to them? End them all?" (Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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