Al-Seesi Says No Way Back for Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

Egypt’s former army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Seesi
Abdel-Fattah al-Seesi is one of two candidates in the presidential vote starting May 26 and is widely expected to win. Photographer: Maxim Shemetov/AFP/Getty Images

May 6 (Bloomberg) -- Egypt’s former army chief, who ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi from office, ruled out any reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood if he wins this month’s presidential election.

“There’ll be nothing called the Muslim Brotherhood during my presidential period,” Abdel-Fattah al-Seesi, one of two candidates seeking the top job, said the first of a two-part televised interview late yesterday.

Egypt has carried out a bloody crackdown on Islamists since al-Seesi led the July overthrow of Mursi. Security forces have killed hundreds of Brotherhood supporters, and arrested and put on trial thousands more, including Mursi and other senior leaders. Hundreds have been sentenced to death. The government has branded the group a terrorist organization.

Al-Seesi, 59, was hailed by supporters for rescuing the country from Islamist influence. Critics say he’s returning Egypt to the kind of repressive rule it experienced under Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a 2011 uprising. The spread of violence in the run-up to voting, which starts on May 26, has hobbled efforts to revive an economy growing at the slowest pace in two decades.

In the latest clashes, a student was killed in fighting between supporters of al-Seesi and the Brotherhood in the province of Qalyubia, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.

Suicide Bombs

Egyptian security forces have also been targeted in near daily attacks by militant groups, including suicide bombings. Officials have blamed the Brotherhood, saying it’s trying to destabilize the transition to democracy. The group denies involvement and says it’s committed to peaceful protest.

Al-Seesi said he’ll make stability and security his priorities, and won’t increase the army’s influence over politics. Hamdeen Sabahi, the only other candidate, said last month that government agencies may throw their weight behind the former military chief.

Al-Seesi said he’ll tolerate criticism and opposition if he wins, though he added “we have to avoid attacking each other.” He said he’s already survived two assassination attempts, without giving details.

He also said that in the transition period since Mursi was toppled, when he mostly served as defense minister, the issues on which he took an active role in cabinet included increases in public wages and social security payments.

In the interview, the former army chief appeared largely poised and calm, wearing a navy blue suit and powder blue tie. He said one of the mistakes that Mursi had made was not communicating with Egyptians. “People have to know and understand,” he said.

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To contact the reporters on this story: Zaid Sabah in Washington at zalhamid@bloomberg.net; Alaa Shahine in Dubai at asalha@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net Ben Holland, Karl Maier