Interview : Huge govt. spending on mega-projects is ineffective: Sisi’s sole challenger

Often, the media has depicted Moussa Mostafa Moussa as a strong supporter for the current president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi; a supporter who led and participated in two campaigns urging Sisi to run for the presidency in the 2014 election, and to seek re-election in 2018, before the supporter turned into a competitor in the final minutes before the deadline for candidacy nomination for the 2018 Egyptian presidential election.

As Chairman of the Ghad Party, the former supporter, current challenger to Sisi decided to stand as the president’s sole competitor following remarkable inconsistency in Egypt’s political scene, with many presidential hopefuls withdrawing their intention to run, or not being authorised to run by authorities.

With the complete lack of any candidates to challenge the current president in the election, the former Sisi-advocate appeared in the final moments as a lifeline to avert the undesirable one-person presidential election, essentially a referendum which would have reflected negatively on Egypt’s political situation.

The 65-year-old sees his candidacy as a duty, following the absence of competition and deliberate reluctance from some political powers to participate in the election.

In an exclusive interview, Egypt Independent spoke with Moussa to get a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding his candidacy, and the main axis of the presidential program he is promoting.

Egypt Independent: Can you give the reader a summary of your political life?

Moussa: Well, I started to engage in Egypt’s political scene in 2004, when me and Ayman Nour, the once presidential candidate who ran against former-President Hosni Mubarak in the 2005 presidential election, agreed to establish a political party, the Ghad (Tomorrow) Party. Also, political work extended to my family, with my father being a prominent politician.

Despite being a graduate of engineering from a French school, I was impressed by political work more than engineering.

Therefore, after many disputes with Nour, the Ghad Party decided to exclude Nour and assigned as head of the party.

When I became the head of the party, I was keen to establish branches of the party in every governorate in Egypt, and to enhance its presence.

EI: What are reasons that turned you from a Sisi-supporter to his sole competitor in the election?

Moussa: I need to say that there are no rules or limits in politics. I was a supporter of Sisi in the wake of the June 30 uprising, as he did a good job not only for me, but for all Egyptians, when he supported the will of Egyptians against the rule of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.

At that time, I decided with members of my party to launch a campaign entitled ‘Kamel Gemilak’ (Complete Your Favor), because we as Egyptians felt that this man sacrificed his life to save Egypt, therefore he deserved to be a president for all Egyptians.

EI: However, this was in 2014, while in 2017 you adopted a similar campaign before becoming a candidate. Can you clarify?

Moussa: Indeed, in 2017, me and my party adopted similar campaign entitled ‘Moa’aydoon’ (Supporters), which had a well-planned presidential program to be used by any candidate that the party would agree on presenting.

At the time, Sisi had not revealed his intentions on whether he will seek re-election or not. We then saw Egypt’s former-Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq declaring his presidential bid, and as a result we thought the presence of Shafiq would create balance and produce a genuine democratic scene.

However, he rapidly retreated his bid, and Sisi affirmed he would be running in the election. At the time there were numerous potential candidates, and our party decided to present the ‘Moa’aydoon’ program to be used by Sisi.

The ‘Moa’aydoon’ campaign was dedicated for any candidate to use, as I have said, but the party agreed to support Sisi at the time.

EI: How, then, did the ‘Moa’aydoon’ campaign, which was created to support Sisi, suddenly become your program?

Moussa: Our party kept a close eye on the political scene after Sisi announced his re-election bid, and during this period we were declaring our support for Sisi through the ‘Moa’aydoon’ program.

“However, when many presidential hopefuls withdrew from the race, we felt there was a deliberate evil intention to harm Egypt’s repute internationally, and to echo that Egypt is not a democratic country, using non-credible narratives and state-planned schemes to pressure other presidential hopefuls to withdraw their candidacy.

Therefore, it was necessary and it was our party’s duty to present a presidential candidate and to fill the gap, as well as to prevent the opportunity for Egypt’s enemies, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, from exploiting the current circumstances.

If I did not declare my candidacy, then the election would turn into a referendum.

EI: How did you manage to complete the necessary candidacy documents a few hours before the deadline?

Moussa: As I said, my party worked on the ‘Moa’aydoon’ campaign as a guide for any candidate to adopt, not just for Sisi. We had decided to support Sisi through the campaign, however, since there were no candidates challenging him, we then considered capitalizing by presenting me as a candidate from our own party.

We then called about 23 members of parliament, out of 50 MPs who had not endorsed Sisi, to authorize me to become a presidential candidate. We were able to gain 20 signatures.

Through the 20 endorsements, I was able to present my documents to become a presidential candidate a few hours before the closure of the candidacy nomination period.”

EI: Do you think that the 2018 presidential elections will be fair?

Moussa: I do not think that state institutions will be biased towards a certain candidate in the election, and if this happened, it would mean that they fear me as a candidate.

I believe that Sisi has made many achievements, therefore he is gaining more popular support than me. However, I have a presidential program that contains innovative solutions to many problems in Egypt.

Concerns echoed on the scale of fairness in the upcoming presidential election, particularly coming from inside Europe and other Western countries, are meaningless. Therefore, I call upon them to be present during the election, to monitor it and witness what is happening on the ground, instead of depending on flimsy reports.

EI: Have you received any invitation to engage in a live debate with Sisi?

Moussa: Until now, no, I did not receive anything, and I do not seek it, because if it happened then Sisi would highlight his achievements. I do not have similar achievements, I have a presidential program.

I would be happy if Sisi engaged in a live debate on highlighting the main axis from our respective presidential programs, not our achievements.

EI: In your opinion, why is there no challenger to Sisi nominated from the majority of Egypt’s political powers?

Moussa: I tried to open a dialogue with a number of political parties in Egypt but failed to gain their support, as they consider it difficult to present a challenger against Sisi due to his remarkable achievements.

The same reason inhibited them from declaring a presidential candidate from within their parties, but I did it.

EI: Why do many people notice the absence of street promotions for your campaign in comparison to Sisi?

Moussa: I know that there is an intensive and unprecedented number of banners showing support for Sisi, and I believe they were placed by ordinary citizens supporting Sisi, who wish to express their support for him through the banners.

I do not believe that this is organized propaganda from Sisi’s campaign, as is being circulated. This is spontaneous support expressed by citizens to Sisi due to his achievements.

However, I need to say that if my campaign had enough money to hang a similar number of banners as those placed by Sisi’s campaign, we would. But unfortunately we do not have enough money.

EI: Do you think there were negatives during Sisi’s first presidential term?

Moussa: I believe that Sisi’s government poured massive expenditures into mega-projects.

Instead, it should have launched half of these projects and used the rest of money to bridge the economic gap that Egyptians are suffering from currently.

EI: In addition, what is your opinion regarding the devaluation of the Egyptian pound?

Moussa: It was a just decision, however, the government failed to overcome its consequences which badly harmed Egyptians, such as high prices.

EI: Do you organize conferences across Egypt’s governorates and villages to promote your campaign?

Moussa: Actually, our party is engaging in running conferences in a number of Egypt’s governorates to promote my presidential program. I, personally, do not participate in it as there are various escorts who make my movement somewhat difficult.

EI: What are the main frames that you will follow in dealing with Egypt’s foreign relations?

Moussa: Egypt is suffering with unrestrained interference from the Turkey and Qatari states. Therefore, I believe that the boycott of Qatar should continue, and that change in Qatar will be achieved from inside.

By this I mean that Egypt will be content with the boycott, but Qatar will soon witness change, and the change will be triggered by the Qatari people.

EI: Do you intend to win the election by a certain ratio?

Moussa: Yes, I intend to win the election by 51% [of the votes], as Sisi enjoys massive popularity.

EI: What are your views regarding the recent massive armament deals provided to the Egyptian army?

Moussa: I think it was necessary, as Egypt is surrounded by unstable nations where war continues to rise.

EI: What would you do to end the long-term remand in Egypt?

Moussa: I want to say that freedoms should be respected. I believe in individual freedom, therefore it is important that the state conducts rapid trials for anyone detained over charges, as these trials will prove whether they are guilty or innocent.

EI: Finally, do you believe that it is possible to pave reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood if you are elected as president?

Moussa: We will never consider re-conciliating with any member of the Muslim Brotherhood who is proven to be responsible for killing our sons. Instead, we will demand a rapid trial for them.

However, I believe that young people in the Muslim Brotherhood were deceived: We will work to rehabilitate them for the sake of integrating them into society.

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