Hisham Bastawisy is a well-respected and eminent judge, formerly in charge of the Egyptian Cassation Court, a branch of the judiciary with the responsibility of monitoring and managing the country's parliamentary and presidential elections. With a reputation for honesty cultivated over a long career he is among the front-runners to have put his name forward for the prospective presidential elections and—since making a name for himself exposing corruption in the Mubarak era—claims a healthy popularity.
In 2005 Bastawisy played a crucial role uncovering vote rigging in parliamentary elections. He subsequently endured harassment at the hands of internal security forces and spent two years living in exile in Kuwait. He has returned to Egypt and is now ready he claims, to turn his back on his impressive legal career and pursue political ambitions, not for his own satisfaction—he stresses—but “for the sake of serving the country.”
The Majalla: Why did you consider running for president given your detachment from politics and given the nature of your career in the judiciary?
A judge is not excluded from practicing politics. In fact, I have written a number of political articles on local, Arab, and international issues. The idea of running for president is not new. I had been encouraged to do so by a number of national entities back in 2006.
Q: Why are you running for president now?
I nominated myself for this round following the growing demand by the young people after the February Revolution. I believe that I have something to offer for Egypt, which was also the reason why I would sacrifice my beloved career for the sake of serving the country.
Q: Do you believe that a judge who is accustomed to rule in court can in fact rule Egypt?
Courtrooms were the only places where you would find democracy in the past. A judge is trained to listen to different views and disputes and to make a decision based on the majority’s point of view, which is the highest form of democracy.
Q: Can a judge find his path within the labyrinth of politics?
I believe that the best candidate for the next stage is a judge who is knowledgeable in national issues and who has a true political vision. We need to identify the Law as a ruling article and establish this as a principle.
Q: What are the main items on your electoral agenda?
My agenda is based on national constants, which are political and economic freedoms, human rights, and social justice. The central focal point in my agenda is the Egyptian human being.
Q: What would be the pillars of Egypt’s foreign policy if you were to become president?
My foreign policy will, first and foremost, take into account the country’s interests, while ensuring good relations with all the other countries, based on common interests and the peer-to-peer approach.
Q: What about the Arab and regional circuits?
Egypt is the revolution. It will regain its place in the region as a leading force. Egypt will always take into consideration Arab and African interests and will tend to strengthen these interests using every possible means.
Q: What is the nature of the economic system that you are going to apply?
A free economy, which promotes investments, is strongly required by Egypt in the coming phase. However, certain controls shall be deployed to safeguard the rights of the lower classes.
Q: What are your thoughts on the post-revolution trials?
I believe that we are on track. Following the correct procedures at the trials will result in issuing deserving sentences to those who committed crimes against Egypt. As a judge, I believe in that every accused has the right to a fair trial regardless of the crime he committed.
Q: Why aren’t the Egyptians satisfied with the results so far?
The Egyptian people rush to conclusions in regards to the outcomes of the trials. This is understandable as people possess a sense of deep oppression and injustice as a result of the former regime.
Q: Do you support the suggestion of granting former President Mubarak amnesty in exchange of replacing the looted funds?
Mubarak’s crimes did not stop at robbing popular funds. The rightful people who would choose to grant Mubarak a pardon are the victims of his crimes and the bloodsheds by his associates. These victims have the right to call for justice. This is the right of the Egyptian people.
Q: What would be the first decision you would make if you become the president of Egypt?
I defer making any decisions till after the elections.
Q: Do you foresee cooperation with your opponents?
I will cooperate with everyone that has something to offer for Egypt, as the interests of the country transcend the interests of the individuals.
Q: How would you treat the various entities in Egypt, especially the religious ones?
Standing at an equal distance from all the different entities in Egypt aids me in my mission to bring the different views into convergence and into finding meeting points based on the fair grounds of a civilian-based democratic state.
Q: What is the worst threat to Egypt?
The attempts by remnants of the former regime to undermine the civilized outcomes of the Egyptian Revolution and to spark sectarianism.
Q: Which amongst your opponents do you fear the most?
There is no place for personal concerns at the elections. In my opinion, the important matter here is the interest of the state, but not the competition.
Q: Which candidate would you readily step down for, if they would run for president?
If such a person existed, I would not have nominated myself for the presidency. I seek to serve my country not the post.
Q: There have been rumors of the possibility of you stepping down in favor of other candidates, such as Hamdeen Sabahi. What is your response to that?
This is not true. Hamdeen is a dear friend of mine, but these talks are mere indiscretions by the press.
Q: If you were to lose the elections, what would be your alternative plan?
I will continue to serve my country. I may take on the path of social work. Regardless, I will always be present to serve Egypt anyway I can.