Friday,20 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February
Friday,20 October, 2017
Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February

Ahram Weekly

‘Dialogue is the only option’

Leader of the liberal Ghad Al-Thawra Party Ayman Nour talks to Mona El-Nahhas about his assessment of the current political situation

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Who is responsible for the crisis Egypt is going through in your opinion?

The crisis has been mainly caused by the Muslim Brotherhood and its failure to create a real political partnership in which all the political forces in the country can participate without any of them being excluded. After gaining a majority in the last parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood should have taken the initiative towards achieving such a partnership, but unfortunately this did not happen.

After President Mohamed Morsi came to power, nothing serious was done in this direction either. On the contrary, a lust for power led the Islamists to tighten their grip upon all the state institutions and to exclude others from participation. However, some opposition groups, also wanting power, went to extremes in expressing their views, turning political differences into a power struggle that could undermine the state. I think nobody should be exempted from responsibility. However, the president and the Muslim Brotherhood should bear most responsibility because they are the ones in power.

 

Some voices have accused the National Salvation Front (NSF) of stirring up the public against the governing system. Is this true?

I think this is a total exaggeration. Those who oppose the Brotherhood represent many political entities, of which the NSF is just one part. It is unrealistic to reduce the opposition to the NSF, or to claim that the NSF is the only body capable of steering the public. Let’s assume that the NSF decided all of a sudden not to take part in any protests. Do you think that this would calm the public down? I doubt it very much. Realistically speaking, the poor performance of those now in power is the main reason behind the public anger.

 

How do you assess the initiatives recently put forward by various political forces? How far could they help settle the current political situation?

Anyone who thinks that any of these initiatives will lead to an immediate settlement of the current crisis is wrong, as the political situation is much more complicated. However, the effect of these initiatives will be an accumulative one, and they will gradually help in finding a way out. I think the initiative proposed by the Salafist Nour Party has been the most promising, since besides gaining wide agreement it has managed to combine what was included in the other initiatives. Our party has announced its total support for the Nour Party initiative and has welcomed other initiatives that could help end the current violence and political polarisation.

 

You took part in the national dialogue organised by the presidency. How do you see the effectiveness of these sessions, given that the regime is ignoring the main demands from the streets?

No liberal person should reject the idea of dialogue, as this would be against liberal ideology. Besides, what would be the alternative if two conflicting sides insisted on not talking to each other? Just more violence and more blood. It is not true that we took part in the dialogue because we backed President Morsi. On the contrary, we sat at the table because we totally differ from him. If we had the same views, what would be the point of dialogue? If all our demands were going to be met beforehand, what would be the reason for sitting together?

With regard to the effectiveness of the sessions, I think we achieved about two-thirds of our demands, and had all the different opposition groups been present at the table the benefits would have been even greater. During the first session, after 12 hours of negotiations we managed to cancel the catastrophic articles included in the 22 November constitutional declaration. During another dialogue session, it was agreed that all the controversial articles in the newly-endorsed constitution would be revised by constitutional experts and politicians, and that the amendments proposed would be examined by the different political forces. The president pledged to present the amended articles to the upcoming parliament. I think these efforts should not be ignored.

 

Have you felt any regret about participating in the national dialogue, especially after you were accused of abandoning the opposition and of drawing closer to the Islamist regime?

At a time when bravery was rare, we were in the forefront and paid the price. Now that wisdom and logic have also become rare, we also stand in the forefront. This is what we need. It does not matter to me if I am supported or if I am attacked. A politician is someone who leads public opinion. He should not be intimidated by criticisms or political blackmail. When I adopt the positions that I do, I do not seek personal interests or posts. I have previously made it clear that I will remain in the opposition camp and that I will never accept any official post. It was for this reason that I turned down the offer to join the presidential team or to take a ministerial seat in Prime Minister Hisham Kandil’s cabinet. So any talk about deals with the regime is nonsense. I am not going to sacrifice my history for any government post.    

 

With regard to the forthcoming parliamentary elections, do you think that the complicated political conditions in the country will lead to free and fair elections? Is now the best time to hold the parliamentary polls?

Of course, the timing is very difficult, and in the absence of constitutional constraints it would be better to delay holding the elections. I think Kandil’s cabinet will make things worse, and it does not suit the current moment in any way. For this reason, I am in favour of a neutral and independent cabinet that would be more capable of holding free and fair elections. We are not going to give up this demand, and we will continue to fight to achieve it.

 

How do you see the chances of the Islamist forces in the coming elections, especially given their shrinking popularity with the wider public?

In my opinion, none of the existing political forces will be able to get a majority in the forthcoming parliament. I am for a balanced parliament, in which all political trends are represented. As to the Freedom and Justice Party’s chances of success, I expect they will not be high. As a result, the party will not have the right to form the forthcoming cabinet, which is going to be a coalition one.

 

How do you see the role of the Ghad Al-Thawra Party in the current political equation and what are the party’s preparations for the forthcoming polls? Is there an intention to forge an electoral coalition with other political forces?

Of course, the political role of the Ghad Al-Thawra Party changed a lot after the revolution. It became wiser as a result of the new political circumstances. It became easier for political parties to have a real public presence, and, with dozens of new parties emerging on the scene, the party’s weight changed to some extent. However, we are still capable of bringing about tangible effects on the political scene.

With regard to electoral coalitions, the Ghad Al-Thawra Party intends to forge a coalition with civil political forces that stand in the middle between the Islamist forces and the far left. Contacts are now underway with the Strong Egypt Party, the Misr Party, 15 civil parties and parties that are members of the NSF. The final form of any coalition has not yet been defined, but I would like to make it clear that we are not going to ally ourselves with the ruling party. Our allies will be opposition parties with moderate ideologies. After forging the coalition, we will compete for all the parliamentary seats, and we will present a fair proportion of women and Coptic candidates.

 

How do you assess the performance of President Mohamed Morsi thus far?

I am not against president Morsi as a person or as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. I am against his performance, which has been very poor and disorganised. He has made important mistakes, starting with the faulty constitutional declaration, the way he dismissed the former prosecutor-general, the announcement of the state of emergency and the curfew in the Suez Canal cities, and his choice of Hisham Kandil to lead the government at such a critical stage.

I think it is time that Kandil’s cabinet was dismissed, since it cannot express the people’s aspirations. A cabinet lacking in political or economic experience can lead the country to catastrophe, and this is happening now. I think Morsi is in need of help. He should appoint a new presidential team that is ideologically different from him. It is not logical to consult people who share your views and way of thinking. It can seem as if you are talking to yourself.

 

Some political forces are calling for the holding of early presidential elections, arguing that this is the only way out of the current political crisis. Do you agree?

I totally disagree. If Morsi were ousted now, his successor would not remain in power for more than six days and Egypt would turn into Somalia. I think that even those who hate Morsi should let him continue his term. In this way, we will be able to guarantee that the public, fed up with his performance, will never elect another Muslim Brotherhood president.

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