CAIRO - The Muslim Brotherhood can look for no handouts from Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the man expected to be Egypt's next president. Nor, apparently, can secular foes of the government.
In the first televised question-and-answer session of his campaign, which aired Monday night with another segment to follow on Tuesday evening, the former field marshal took scripted questions from generally friendly and non-confrontational interviewers from two Egyptian broadcasters.
Sissi, the former defense minister who has been Egypt's de facto leader for the last 10 months, said it would not be possible for the Brotherhood, once Egypt's largest political movement, to re-enter politics. The group has been formally branded a terrorist organization, and thousands of its followers are in jail. More than 1,000 have been killed in clashes with security forces.
Sissi declared that the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July was not at the military's behest, but that of the Egyptian people. And Sissi said the subsequent sweeping crackdown against Morsi's movement marked the implementation of a popular mandate, adding that other militant groups that have emerged in recent months were merely "camouflage" for the Brotherhood.
Sissi also expressed support for Egypt's harsh protest law, which effectively criminalizes spontaneous street demonstrations. It has been used as a tool not only against the Brotherhood, but secular opponents as well.
Sissi's sole competitor in the race, Hamdeen Sabahi, had previously announced that he would abolish the protest law and pardon all those imprisoned under the law if he wins the election set for May 26 and 27.