In a recent TV interview, Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef said that the army should not intervene in politics and that Field Marshal Al-Sisi should not run for president. “It is not good for the country or for the army if people follow someone blindly,” said Youssef, adding that this would be repeating past mistakes. The interview aired on the Egyptian Al-Hayat TV channel on February 1, 2014.
Following are excerpts from the interview:
Interviewer: Do you support Field Marshal Al-Sisi’s presidential candidacy?
Bassem Youssef: No?
Bassem Youssef: As I’ve said before, Field Marshal Al-Sisi is commander of the army, and I think that Egypt needs him in that position. It is better if the army does not intervene in politics. Just as we always say that we should not sully religion by mixing it with politics, the respectable military establishment should avoid political wheeling and dealing.
Anyone who runs against Al-Sisi will in fact be running against the army and the Defense Ministry. No one can compete with the Defense Ministry and the army. The army is a national army, and it should stay away from politics.
Interviewer: Do you oppose the very idea of a military commander as a candidate?
Bassem Youssef: I think that a candidate who comes from the military... People bring examples like Eisenhower or McCain, or some Israeli leaders. That’s all well and good, but those people did not run for presidency a day after they left the army. They left the army, entered political life, were active in their party for four or five years and rose in its ranks, and only after that did they present their candidacy on behalf of the party.
It bothers me that people bring examples from abroad without understanding them. It’s true that many people with military backgrounds have run for presidency in the West. I have no problem with that.
Interviewer: But he will present his political platform...
Bassem Youssef: But we know full well that it is not his platform that will get him votes. People will vote for him because of his military achievements.
I believe that it is not good for the country or for the army if people follow someone blindly. We would be repeating the mistake of believing that there can be no alternative.
I don’t think we witnessed a coup, but I don’t think it was a revolution either. The revolution managed to depose a ruler and an organization that were leading Egypt to perdition. I believe that Morsi and the MB were leading Egypt in the wrong direction. But the real question is: Are we repeating the mistakes of the MB?
This would be a betrayal of the very principles for which you claim that June 30 Revolution took place.
Interviewer: What is your view on this?
Bassem Youssef: I think that until now, there have been many negative things.
Interviewer: Such as?
Bassem Youssef: For one thing, the media is all going in one direction. That’s not how a revolution should be. There should be different opinions.
In addition to those who support the army and are happy about the June 30 Revolution, there are people who oppose the way things were done, but they are accused of treason, isolated, and persecuted.
It’s inconceivable that whenever you speak your mind, you are accused of belonging to the MB and of being a fifth column.