international analysis and commentary

Hopes for a new Egypt, conversation with Amr Moussa


“The victory of Mohamed Morsi is, above all, a success for the Egyptian democratic process. These elections were the result of a process that shows that we are ready for democracy and that Egypt is taking the right path. These elections are a historical event because they gave us the opportunity to start a new chapter of our history: the second republic. The era that is starting is a civil one, completely different from the previous,” explains Amr Moussa, former Egyptian Foreign Minister. Thanks to his increasing and dangerous popularity, in 2001 Moussa was “promoted” Secretary of the Arab League by then-President Hosni Mubarak – which inevitably reduced his domestic role for several years. After the fall of the regime, he finally decided to run for the presidency. The majority of the pre-electoral polls presented Moussa as one of the favorite candidates, but he dropped out from the race after the first run. “We, as liberals, make some mistakes and Shafiq (Premier of the last Mubarak government) did not represent all our potential voters. Before the first round we focused on candidates who eventually did not arrive to the run-off. This confirms that the ballots really represent the voice of the people. Elections were fair and totally different from the previous ones. In the past, the winner, always the same, was used to obtaining around 90% of the vote. Now the candidates are very close.” 

Cairo, July 2, 2012

Are you satisfied with the work of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and do you think the army has sincere intentions to transfer power to civil institutions?

The week before the elections, many newspapers spoke about a military coup d’état, but I don’t really agree with this interpretation. We are all watching SCAF with suspicion, but if we analyze what the army did from the first day it took power, we have to recognize that SCAF respected its timetable and its promises. The transfer of power already took place and we are already in a new context. From the fall of President Mubarak until now, the army and the Muslim Brotherhood have been working together and we cannot say now that SCAF is trying to contain Islamists.

Egypt is now facing another important battle, the one for the creation of a new Constitution. What can we expect in the coming months?

The new document will clarify that Egypt is a civil country and this will be very important. The Constitution will give all citizens the same rights. I think that in the short run we will have a new document even if the parliament is dissolved. The Constitutional Assembly has been chosen by the dissolved parliament, but the Assembly is still working to write the new document. If it does a good job the Supreme Administrative Court (the court that has to decide next September whether or not this  Assembly is constitutional) will recognize its work as valid.

The Muslim Brotherhood is far from being a revolutionary organization and the army is a reactionary institution. Is this a common point that helps these political actors share power? How will these two forces contain revolutionary activity?

From the beginning they have been sharing power and they are managing the transition together. They do not need any mediator, they have very good relations and we will see how they will able to answer those who want to fulfill the goals of the revolution. Morsi now has to implement a revolutionary policy that can guarantee a civil transformation of the country. Revolutionaries will continue to control him. 

In his speeches and in his program Morsi repeats that he will respect all international treaties, but several international powers are worried about the future of the Camp David Accords. In recent years different sectors of Egyptian society asked a revision of this treaty saying that it is not in the interests of the population. Recently, a Cairo criminal court convicted the former Minister of Petroleum and prominent businessman Hussein Salem of selling Egyptian natural gas to Israel at below market rates. Do you think that Morsi will call for a revision of Camp David?

He will definitely respect this accord. But a part from this, what we need is a new formulation of our foreign policy. I think we have to cultivate relations with the West and with all other countries. But at the same time we have to seriously support Palestinians.

Morsi also stressed his opposition to any foreign interference. Do you think that the US, the most important donor to the Egyptian army, used its pressure to influence recent events?

I think that there is a good relationship between the US and the Brotherhood, but the White House did not influence these recent events. We cannot speak about pressure, this is a very strong word. The White House made general statements, but I don’t think they said to the army that Morsi had to win. SCAF would have never accepted this kind of interference.

In a recent interview, economist Samir Amin said that “the Brotherhood is the first beneficiary of Egyptian poverty because by controlling the informal economy, the Islamist movement has reproduced a system of benefits that finally provided them votes from the poorest sectors.” Do you think Egypt will maintain the same economic model of the Mubarak era or will there be a change?

There is this risk. The Brotherhood cannot repeat the mistakes it made in the past. It has to change policy and create wealth, it cannot use poverty as a guarantee of power. This is an important challenge for this Islamist movement because Islamists have to put the needs of the country before the needs of the movement. For the benefit of the country, they have to fight poverty and corruption and they have to reform the education system in order to guarantee real progress for the future generation.