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September 20, 2014

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Egypt leader says public opposes the Brotherhood

CAIRO — Egypt's interim leader on Sunday said that the general public opposes the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in the political process because he said it uses violence.

In a wide-ranging interview broadcast late into the night on CBC television, Adly Mansour said that any member of the Brotherhood who renounces violence and gives up membership in the group is welcomed to join the upcoming elections.

"If people are convinced (and vote for them), they are welcome," said Mansour, the interim president installed in July after the military removed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, a Brotherhood member, following mass protests against him.

Mansour said he can't open negotiations with the group, which he blamed for the wave of violence that hit Egypt after Morsi's ouster. The military-backed government has labelled it a terrorist organization after it blamed it for orchestrating violence following a major attack against a police headquarters

"Negotiate with whom? Those who committed violence, incited it? ... The whole public would stand against me."

The Brotherhood denies it uses violence in its opposition to Morsi's ouster, and the government has offered little evidence to prove the link between the attacks and the group.

Mansour also denied complaints that the crackdown against the group and those who oppose the interim government has been heavy handed, saying that security forces only pursue those who carry out violent acts.

Since Morsi's ouster, thousands have been detained at protests by his supporters. Hundreds have also been killed.

While Mansour acknowledged that some abuse by the police does take place, he said it was not systematic.

"I don't deny that some members of the institution can carry out repressive acts, but it is not systematic," he said.

Mansour said he expects he will hand power over to a new president within two months, when results of the presidential elections are announced. The date for the election has yet to be announced but it will likely be held in April.

The country's powerful military chief, Field Marshall Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, has emerged as the only strong candidate for the presidency, and would likely win if he runs, given the backdrop of rising nationalist sentiment amid fears of militant Islam.

Mansour acknowledged that the recently passed presidential electoral law could face legal challenges, but he expects the Supreme Constitutional Court to uphold it.

The law, issued by Mansour last week, has been criticized by many politicians and potential presidential candidates because it protects the elections commission from legal challenges. Some argue the decree violates the country's newly adopted amended constitution and are preparing to contest it.

Also Sunday, a former Egyptian presidential candidate close to the country's youth movements said he would not take part in elections, calling them a "farce" stacked in favor the powerful military chief.

Khaled Ali, an active labor rights campaigner during the time of Hosni Mubarak, said the election favors only one candidate. While not calling out el-Sissi by name, Ali's comments were aimed at him.

Ali also said state institutions and the media are all geared toward el-Sissi's expected candidacy — undermining the chances of a fair competition with any other candidate.

"Stop the puppet theater that you have opened," Ali told journalists. "We are not against the candidacy of any former military leader, the military which we respect. ... But stay away from the army for a year, and let the media and the people treat you as a human, one that acts like humans who can make mistakes and can do right and be criticized."

Mansour said he expects the race to be competitive, despite the criticism. He said it is up to el-Sissi to announce whether he will run or not.

Only one civilian candidate so far, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, has announced he will run. Sabahi has also sharply criticized the law.

Earlier this week, the military received criticism from deep within its establishment. Ahmed Shafiq, the former head of the air force and the last prime minister under Mubarak who came in second in the 2012 elections, criticized the army's support of el-Sissi, according to recordings of his private conversations leaked on the Internet.

"I know they will fix all the ballot boxes for (el-Sissi). ... It will be a farce," Shafiq said in the recordings.

Shafiq himself was believed to have presidential aspirations, but had said earlier he would not run if el-Sissi was nominated.

He also said the military's public support for el-Sissi mires the armed forces in politics.

In a statement Thursday, Shafiq said he stood by his comments criticizing the army taking a role in Egyptian politics, but added that the military had since fixed its mistakes. He also renewed his support for an el-Sissi candidacy.

Ali's and Shafiq's comments, coming from opposite sides of the political spectrum, cast doubt on the coming election. Egypt's military-backed government hopes the vote will shore up its legitimacy after the ouster of Egypt's first democratically elected president.

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