Sisi says Muslim Brotherhood will not exist under his reign

Egypt's former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Monday night that the Muslim Brotherhood – the group he removed from power last year – will not exist if he is elected president later this month.

The comments, in an interview broadcast on two Egyptian television stations, were the clearest indication yet there was no prospect for political reconciliation with the Islamist group that propelled Mohamed Morsi to the presidency in 2012.

"There will be nothing called the Muslim Brotherhood during my tenure," Sisi said on Egypt's privately-owned CBC and ONTV television channels.

The Brotherhood has been subject to an aggressive state-led crackdown in the months since Morsi's overthrow. The movement was formally blacklisted as a terrorist organisation on Christmas Day and continues to be blamed for bomb attacks across Egypt, although many have been claimed by militant groups, including the al-Qaida-linked Ansar Beit el Maqdis.

Sisi said he had survived two assassination attempts in the months since Morsi's ousting in July last year.

The former field marshal's claims appeared to vindicate the tight security measures that have dominated his campaign. Instead of taking to the campaign trail like his sole opponent, Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, Sisi will reportedly be sending emissaries to his rallies across the country.

A kingmaker in Egypt's post-Morsi politics, Sisi remains a prime target for a domestic militant insurgency which has targeted the army and police force in retaliation for their roles in Morsi's overthrow and their subsequent crackdown against the Brotherhood and other political opponents.

Egypt's presidential elections, scheduled for 26-27 May, will take place against a backdrop of deep societal divisions. At least 16,000 people have been imprisoned and more than 2,500 killed in the crackdown.

Yet Sisi remains popular, with many Egyptians arguing that he is the only leader capable of restoring security and enough confidence to steady the country's faltering economy. He is expected to win by a landslide.

During the course of the interview, Sisi also addressed allegations, often levelled by critics, that his ascent to power was part of a long-term plan.

"I took the side of millions not because I was interested in power," he said, claiming that he had only taken the decision to run for president in late February after a public show of support from Egypt's supreme council for the armed forces. He has cast his decision as a patriotic duty that was necessary to rescue the nation.

Highlighting the series of challenges that Egypt's next president must face, Sisi said his priorities in power would be security and stability. He described Egypt's high rate of unemployment as "shameful".

According to a recent survey by the Egyptian polling centre Baseera, 72% of those who intend to vote in the elections say they will back Sisi, with 2% supporting Sabahi.