Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1125, 6 - 12 December 2012
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1125, 6 - 12 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

‘Islamists overused their majority’

Presidential adviser Mohamed Esmat Seif Al-Dawla attempts to define the current political scene to Ahmed Eleiba

Al-Ahram Weekly

The political scene in Egypt has become extremely polarised after the 22 November constitutional declaration, the conclusion of the draft constitution, followed by the presidential decree to put it to a referendum.
In an exclusive interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, presidential adviser Mohamed Esmat Seif Al-Dawla shares his reading of the situation and what the future might hold for this crisis ravaging Egypt.
Seif Al-Dawla believes Egypt is witnessing the scene before the last of an acute power struggle that began on 11 February 2011 that has taken many forms and sequences. “It began with debating which comes first, elections or the constitution; the legitimacy of the street or parliament; the dissolution of parliament, presidential elections; and then how to mark the July Revolution and the first anniversary of the January Revolution. Meanwhile, there was also how to view the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
“All these sequences appear different, but in my view they are all scenes from the same battle between the Islamist current and others. The roots of these conflicts existed well before the January Revolution and for many decades. The current scene is the apex of this battle. If the constitution passes and the referendum approves it, then we will have reached the end of one stage of the struggle. This will be followed by a new phase which will begin with electing a new parliament.
“If the referendum rejects the draft constitution, the transitional phase will continue for several more months and the first battle will still be undecided.”
Commenting on the political eruption that followed the constitutional declaration, the presidential adviser said there is an array of viewpoints with different perspectives. “What are the problems that the declaration addressed from the viewpoint of its source? He [the president] felt that we cannot move on from the transitional phase amidst a battle with the Constitutional Court, and therefore the idea was that the constitutional declaration would end the transitional phase and this [the declaration] is the only way to do it.
“The counter argument was how can we accept the precedents set by the constitutional declaration and his decisions? Each viewpoint is valid, but I personally prefer to look at indicators of national unity on these decisions and whether they were divisive. Accordingly, I reject the declaration because it increased the gap irrespective of its details and clauses. National unity is key and all the forces on the scene today are nationalist — except for the counter-revolutionaries, of which we know about 70 per cent. Despite the ideologies and goals of these nationalist forces, we might disagree but we cannot exclude anyone.
“I would have preferred consensus — which could have been possible when writing the constitution since it does not contain any catastrophes — with the exception of 15 clauses that are divisive, and we could have reached consensus on them to achieve social peace and national unity. Choosing the easier route of resolving the dispute through the power of the majority has had an adverse result, which allowed some elements of the counter-revolution to manipulate events and participate with real revolutionary forces.
“Since this resulted in discord, then these measures failed because they further deepened divisions.”
Seif Al-Dawla believes that these side battles have distracted the nation from key issues on which the country has struggled since the revolution. “Our battles should be over our national issues. For example, there is unity against following the US as was practised in the past; there is also unity on freedom from security restrictions in the peace treaty that breach national sovereignty in Sinai; restoring Egypt’s leadership role in the region; freeing Egypt from the policies of the IMF and Paris Club; rejuvenating national industry, fighting poverty, and freeing the country from the grip of businessmen from Mubarak’s regime — which according to the Human Development Report of 2007 are estimated at 160,000 people who own 40 per cent of the country’s capabilities, while 40 per cent of the country is below the poverty line. Finally, there is also a united national position on embedding democracy and rejecting schemes for succession and military rule, and advocating the formation of political parties, protests, strikes and an independent judiciary.
“This amounts to about 80 per cent of the declared and written agendas of all currents. But what happened? We abandoned these goals and focussed on battles about secondary, marginal and divisive issues in the remaining 10 to 20 per cent.”
Seif Al-Dawla believes this was done on purpose. “This was deliberate. The counter-revolution has a control room that knows the variations among currents and succeeded in detonating several landmines.
“All currents committed serious mistakes, starting with the Islamists who overused their majority and ability to mobilise against a minority they believed was ruled by extreme fear, and will be excluded in the coming phase. This muted wiser voices in both camps and hurled us into hysterical and superficial battles.
“I think it would have been better after the revolution to form a national front comprising all currents and parties, to be in charge of completely purging Mubarak’s classist and tyrannical regime, and put all political disputes aside for five years. But this was not on the agenda of these groups that should have agreed on this beforehand.
“I reiterate that this transformation is part of the agenda of the counter-revolution, which some of its members are today wearing the cloak of revolution.”
Perhaps the parliamentary elections that follow a “yes” referendum will be the first opportunity to exit the current conundrum, according to Seif Al-Dawla: “I believe if the constitution is passed and the referendum yields a yes, then we will all turn over a new leaf and move onto the next thing, namely the parliamentary elections.”
The fractured judicial scene is complicated and complex and perhaps this is the first time that divisions have run so deep. The presidential adviser responded: “We cannot ignore the various viewpoints on this problem. One viewpoint asserts that the judiciary is infiltrated, like other institutions in Egypt; that there are revolutionary judges and others who are not. There is evidence of this and we cannot deny it, including comparing the positions of some sitting judges today and their positions on cases of corruption and tyranny under Mubarak. I am more partial to this argument.
“Another perspective is that no matter what the situation, we must uphold the power of the judiciary with a degree of eminence and independence, and not to infringe on any of its powers. This argument also has its own logic.”
Discussing how these crises can be overcome, Seif Al-Dawla said that there are many initiatives for resolution. “Al-Azhar made a proposal. I made my own suggestions for parliamentary elections with a unified list while the president would have the right to appoint several members of the Shura Council that must all come from the opposition. There are other ideas being discussed by all nationalist forces, led by the wise who do not want friction and polarity to continue.”
Seif Al-Dawla noted that the scene in the future can only be one of two: continued divisions and tension or, if wise voices in all national currents intervene, ending the transitional phase that has lasted for 22 months. This would promote the nationalist project.

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