Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- After announcing his decision to run in the Egyptian presidential elections whose run-up is scheduled to begin in mid-year, Lieutenant General Hossam Khairallah, a former undersecretary in the Egyptian intelligence apparatus, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Egyptians are leaning to choosing a president with a military background, “because they need security.” He predicted that the former vice-president and head of intelligence, Major General Omar Suleiman, would not run for the office, because – as he put it – “he wants to maintain his position.”
Lieutenant General Khairallah, former head of the operations room of Egyptian General Intelligence, has joined the possible candidates for the presidency. He announced two days ago his decision to enter the presidential competition whose run-up is scheduled to begin at the end of June, as announced by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has administered the country since former President Hosni Mubarak stepped aside last February.
In exclusive statements to Asharq Al-Awsat, Khairallah denied that his decision to run had anything to do with the military establishment. He said that he had served in the Egyptian army’s paratroop corps “and it was an honour for me.” However, after 1976, he no longer had any connection with the military establishment and had led his life as a civilian. He indicated that there might be sympathy for him among military men on the ground that he understood their demands, but that he had not spoken with or consulted with anyone from the military establishment, and that “his full loyalty was to Egypt.”
Concerning his relations with former Vice-President Umar Suleiman, who was his chief in the intelligence apparatus, Khairallah said that his relationship with Suleiman extended over 14 years, but it should not be held against him, as he had left the intelligence apparatus 6 years ago. He considered it unlikely that Suleiman would run for president, because he wanted to maintain his position and because – as he put it – people still appreciated his service to the country.
Regarding the decision by more than one figure with a military background to run in the presidential elections – Lieutenant General Ahmad Shafiq, for example – Khairallah said that they all would compete against each other and that this proved that there was no particular SCAF candidate in the presidential elections. However, he stated that “people in the villages lean toward the military, because they need to regain security and discipline, along with a civilian vision that maintains rights and freedoms.” Khayrallah explained that his military background and his duties at the information room of the intelligence apparatus might help him deal with the problems and issues confronting Egypt with clear and implementable strategies. He indicated that he had learned how to make sacrifices to achieve his goal, even if it ended in death or assassination.
On his motives for running in the elections, Khairallah said that it had not occurred to him to enter the presidential elections after the fall of the Mubarak regime, it being such a great responsibility. However, after following what was coming from the other candidates – “we were hearing nothing but declarations and slogans; there was unrealistic and irresponsible talk being made, and I saw no one proposing to solve the problems facing Egypt in a scientific way.”
Khairallah added that he had gone into the street to find out people’s opinions. He had toured the southern and northern governorates and had noted the great suffering of the people due to the marginalization of these areas.
Khairallah stressed that he would focus on the little people in the villages and on those who had frequently been marginalized. He said that he would rely in his program on a number of basic elements for which he would lay down permanent strategies that would be maintained whatever personnel changes there might be. Education and health would come at the top of the list – these count as national security – in addition to maintaining order.
Khairallah noted that former President Hosni Mubarak had built his whole life on reacting: “We never saw a single decision on which he took the initiative, and so the people came out against him.”
Regarding the results of the recent parliamentary elections and the rise of the Islamic current, he said that he “respected the result, as long as this is the people’s choice. However, the moment of time through which Egypt is passing does not permit any faction to monopolize power, because the burden is heavy and everybody is needed.” He indicated that he had held no consultations with any political forces or parties, because he would focus on the movement in the street currently.
Khairallah expressed the opinion that a mixed presidential-parliamentary system was most suitable for Egypt at this time, with broad powers being given to the government and with the president’s being responsible for realizing balance between the branches. He indicated that it would not be right for us to implement a parliamentary system: in that case a particular faction would monopolize parliament and the government.