Gamal Abdel Nasser, was a unique politician. Although it has been more than four decades since his death, his politics still inspire many. The Nasserist Ideology is now one of the strongest and most influential in Egypt. It attracts the working classes—who see Nasserism as a refuge from poverty that was brought about by both Sadat and Mubarak’s regimes –and the intellectuals—who see Nasser as a symbol of what the Egyptian citizen once was. Hamdeen Sabahi is one of the contemporary symbols of this school of thought.
Sabahi started his political career as a troublemaker. He was one of the youngest political prisoners of the famous September Arrests, which preceded Sadat’s assassination in 1981. He first entered the political spotlight in a sharp debate with late president Anwar Sadat during a presidential visit to Sabahi’s university back in the 70s. This encounter angered Sadat and led to Sabahi’s exclusion from all government-related sites after his graduation from college. He then found his way into journalism and he became one of the most provocative writers in Egypt. He was known for his anti-regime articles, especially those that tackled the national concerns provoked by the regime’s policies.
Sabahi vocally opposed the American invasion of Iraq at the time and has frequently spoken up for the Palestinian issue. Significantly, he also took part in the anti-Mubarak demonstrations. Sabahi took part in the revolution from its early stages and when the regime fell he announced his candidacy for presidency. His political campaign is of a Nasserist nature in both ideology and methodology. Consequently, Sabahi will probably obtain a high number of votes in a future electoral battle.
The Egyptian People Deserve the Best
Sabahi is amongst the youngest potential candidates for the presidency, which no great feat since the majority of the front-runners are in their seventies. Many see hope for a better tomorrow in Sabahi and many amongst the young Egyptians respect him highly for taking part in the revolution. Sabahi lays claim to many promises and dreams, but can he deliver on them? This was the first question raised by The Majalla in a short meeting with Sabahi.
I have an immense belief that Egypt deserves a lot better than what it currently has. I have loads of ambitions that began as dreams. We are capable of achieving them. I will draw up a strategic plan for Egypt for the coming eight years.
Q: Which are the most important amongst your ambitions and those that the people rely on you to achieve?
Raising the standard of living for the working classes, the eradication of poverty and unemployment, and focusing on local produce … These are not impossible. Egypt should be a center for national and Arab investments and for economic cooperation with Africa.
Q: How do you plan to win the elections?
Through communing with all classes in Egypt and abroad, having dialogues with them on every subject and issue that concerns them, and introducing them to my electoral campaign and methodology.
Q: What are the main features of your campaign which make you more noticeable to the masses?
Fighting corruption, attending to the marginalized and their denied rights, especially farmers and laborers who have suffered massively… We should also seek benefit of our Egyptian expertise abroad and we should seek to recover all looted funds.
Q: The race for presidency is now at a critical stage. How do you see your chances of winning?
The Egyptians are a very intelligent people. They can recognize an honest candidate who does not tend to rely on empty electoral promises. I have been receiving positive responses during my campaign, thanks goes to God.
Q: Which opponents do you fear most, due to their popularity?
I respect all my opponents. Let us leave it to the people to make a decision.
Q: What makes you different that the other candidates, other than your electoral campaign?
I believe it is the age, as I am the youngest by far… In addition to my abundance of ideas.
Q: Some criticize your Nasserite approaches, suggesting that these approaches have failed in the past. What are your thoughts on the matter?
Nasserism is a system that has its pros and cons like any other system. However, no one can deny the achievements it made.
Q: What do you say to those who believe that your practical political experience is limited, in comparison to that of your opponents?
On the contrary, I do have a lot of experience. I have been practicing politics for many years. I was the youngest political prisoner at my time and I was a member of the People’s Assembly, twice, not to mention my numerous decisive stances at Parliament.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Muslim Brotherhood, their activities, recent rise to popularity, and their new party?
There is no fear from the Brotherhood as long as they practice their political rights within the frame of the political game and as long as they declare their support of a civil state.
Q: What are your thoughts on the discord of the constitution, the presidential elections and the parliamentary elections?
I believe that we need a totally new constitution, then we can have the parliamentary elections and later the presidential.
Q: Do you anticipate any surprises in the coming period during the presidential race?
Yes, I think it is possible.
Q: What is the nature of those surprises?
The main features will not be clear, not until the race is near the end.