Once hailed as the poster country for the Arab Spring, Egypt is now embroiled in a violent constitutional crisis. RT talked to one of the people at the heart of the political battle – former presidential candidate and Arab League chief Amr Moussa.
RT: So here we are, close to Tahrir Square where it seems like the atmosphere of revolution is once more in the air. Is that a sign of success or perhaps a failure?
Amr Moussa: It cannot be a sigh of success, except in one meaning – that people are coming together to express their views concerning a constitutional declaration that the majority oppose. And therefore this is a sign of success there, which is a freedom of expression, the freedom of assembly, and conveying their views freely. And this is something that we have to count as a very positive result of the revolution of January 25, 2011. That’s number one.
Number two, the situation in Egypt generally is tense because of the fact that nothing has really changed. The change that we wanted, that people hoped for dealing with services, education, healthcare and the rest of the fields pertaining to the life of Egyptians have not really produced anything new.
RT: Where did the revolution go wrong?
AM: Well I don’t really think the revolution has gone wrong. But the revolution, such as the one we do have here in Egypt takes time to be able to say, these are the fruits of the revolution. It will take time. But first of all, we have a civilian rule, a new republic, an elected president, the parliamentary elections are coming up – those are positive points. But on the other side, there are things that people do not accept. The people want Egypt to look forward, to look to the future, to link up with the world, to deal with our problems that are soluble, they are not impossible problems. So why should we stay put at one point and don’t move? This is the thing that we are calling on the president, on the new government, on the new regime, and on ourselves that we have to move on, we have not. But I believe he is convinced of what he’s doing, and here we differ with him, we believe this was a mistake.
RT: This is a major worry to a lot of Egyptians, a fear of, as one person I spoke to put it, a large increase in political violence on the horizon. Do you think that that’s a real worry?
AM: This is a worry but I don’t think that we will reach that level, and I don’t hope, but certainly in my analysis I don’t think that we are heading to have a civil war or something of that kind, but a confrontation and very angry people. So the point is that now we are coming together, we are sitting together, we are trying to go beneath…
RT: Who is coming together?
AM: All the liberal forces, and other political forces like leftist forces, revolutionary forces, and so on, Coptic Christians, and Coptic Christians, as it was clear in the position taken in the Constitutional Assembly, would rule together with us, and others. We all would rule together.
RT: Coptic Christians and women. I have spoken to some representatives of those communities. They are especially worried about this constitution. Do they have a good reason to be scared?
AM: Well, the constitution would be better, if it took women’s worry, women’s role, women’s rights into real consideration, if it were clear at positions and had clear articles dealing with that, which is not the case. Yes, indeed, they have a reason to worry.
RT: For Morsi himself, for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the most important word – the Islamist part or the political part?
AM: I think that the commitment to the Islamic philosophy is much stronger – the moderate Islam, that would really help the society define itself, but at the same time would not be curtailed in its activities, in its development by restrictions that come out of, or based on a very strict interpretation of Islam. After electing their president, and discussing their constitution, normalization should have taken place. And really get to business. And what is a business? Fifty per cent of the country lives in poverty. The illiteracy, the unemployment, there are major problems that have not been addressed until this moment. This is the point. Many of us, as citizens, as liberalists, as nationalists, believe that we are losing time.
RT: …losing time. And it seems that one of the things standing in the way of that is this death struggle between Morsi and the supreme judges. And how much do you think it is? Perhaps, they have choreographed a superb piece of political theater?
AM: This is part of the scene. If we come to a conclusion and to a national reconciliation, that would take care of everything. National reconciliation is our responsibility as a society, but it is the responsibility of the president, the government and the regime. This is the point. It is their responsibility to bring conciliation into the table, to start working to deal with the ails of the society. Yes, there is a battle about the constitution, or a difference of views about the constitution. But this should not curtail or stop the government from moving on, dealing with problems, that we as people feel that they have to be addressed. And as immediately as we can.
RT: There is obviously a wider Arab Spring still far from over. So, what is really going on with this Arab Spring? Do you really think it’s a genuine welling up of popular feeling or do you think there are people who are pulling strings here for their own international …?
AM: No. The revolution, the changes that have taken place, are really genuine. It had to come. To continue the regimes as they are – as they were – it was impossible. And many of us, including myself, expected that to happen. Business as usual – supporting the government just for the word ‘stability’, without real development, without democracy, without understanding the essence of the change that has taken place – this is a historical movement.
So, working against history will not succeed. It will turn against those who want the status quo to continue – as if nothing happened – okay, “Who is governing today? – Mr. X – Okay, let’s go to support him!”
No. We have to play a different game. That change has to be respected and helped.
Economic development. It’s on.
RT: Probably the other really big story in the Middle East at the moment – the tragedy unfolding in Syria. Do you think the international community has done enough to help Syria?
AM: Some Western countries are trying to help this way or that way, but there is no policy supported by all Arabs – all countries in order that to save the people in Syria. And those who count that okay Syria will continue to live in such conditions for a year or two or five or ten, they are wrong. Things will come to an end by the mere fact that the people had already voiced their opposition to the government. And they will continue to do so – they paid a lot – heavy price for that.
And therefore those who believe that they can maintain the status quo are really mistaken. And their mistake will affect the fate of so many people in Syria and in the Arab countries.
RT:Who are you implying by ‘them’?
AM: Well, I am not addressing any country or any policy per se. But generally, the situation in Syria should come to an end and to be – from the Syrians – to start building their own democracy.
RT: The big word on everyone’s lips as regards Egyptian foreign policy is Sinai. What on earth is really going on there?
AM:Well, of course, Sinai needs to be secure – as part of Egypt, and the sovereignty of Egypt to be supported.
RT: So why all this talk of a deal with the Palestinians..?
AM:Not this – trying to help the Palestinians is one thing, to affect the sovereignty of Egypt is another thing. From all points of view – humanitarian point of view, economic point of view, political point of view – that we have to do. And I am so happy for the resolution that has been adopted by the General Assembly – this should be part of the foreign policy of Egypt.
Also part of the foreign policy of Egypt is to enable the reconciliation between the Fatah and Hamas – within the Palestinian rank-and-file. And the West has to change its position on that and not to oppose this conciliation.
We were talking about Syria. Palestine’s also an issue that has to be attended to and very goodly.
RT:I am going to ask you – just briefly – to crystal-ball gaze – where do you see Egypt’s revolution going?
AM:The revolution will continue. It’s not going to fail. There is no return to the previous regime. But we should not also have this ‘stand-still’ kind of policy. We have to move on. Unless we move on, the things will go back and Egypt will be in trouble.
That is the essence of the message. Our position today: MOVE ON, RESPECT DEMOCRACY, RESPECT THE RULE OF LAW! LET US MOVE TOGETHER! Dividing the country, dividing the people, dividing the public opinion is not in our interest.
So I hope that we will all understand this point.