Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1125, 6 - 12 December 2012
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1125, 6 - 12 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Entry into an exit

On the country’s current political polarisation, Heikal, the nation's top political commentator, gives reasons for concern and compromise, reports Dina Ezzat

Al-Ahram Weekly

In what amounts to a conditional vote of confidence for President Mohamed Morsi in the midst of an extremely challenging political quagmire, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, the number one political commentator in the country said that it is unwise for demonstrators to chant "down, down with Morsi". This said, Heikal, whose disagreements with political Islam are only too evident, blamed Morsi, albeit in subtle language, for the current state of affairs.

For Heikal, Morsi is still a legitimate president. "He clearly has the legitimacy of the ballot box, and I would say that this legitimacy could only fall by crimes committed and not by mistakes -- even some huge mistakes," Heikal said.

Heikal was speaking to the flagship programme of CBC’s Hona Al-Assema (This is the Capital). The station was never supportive of Morsi and whose anchor Lamis Hadidi, like almost every other anchor on this two-year old satellite channel, showed unmasked support for Morsi's presidential adversary during the elections, Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

Heikal was tactfully critical of the two major controversial political decisions that president Morsi took recently and which prompted the current political confrontation between his supporters which comprise the Muslim Brotherhood and other strict Islamist organisations of Salafis and Islamic Jihad, and opponents who include liberal opposition during the rule of Mubarak as well as Mubarak's supporters.

"A jump into the unknown" was how Heikal qualified the constitutional declaration, issued by Morsi on 22 November, which grants presidential decisions immunity against any judiciary appeal and which effectively suspended the entire judiciary -- partially at odds with the president -- at a time when the president is already in control of the legislative along with executive powers.

And "deeply troubling" was Heikal's way of referring to an intense session whereby a nearly all-Islamist drafting party passed a draft of the constitution overnight in absence of all the liberal members, representatives of the church and intellectuals who had already pulled out to protest against what they claimed was Islamist hegemony, an accusation Islamists contest.

Reflecting on the televised session, Heikal said that watching the adoption of the consecutive articles of the draft constitution last weekend, before it was handed to the president who called for a referendum on 15 December, made him realise that "the country was moving into a crisis”, a concern that he shared the following day with what he said was a leading member of the regime with an appeal for an act of containment that would not undermine the image or status of the president.

Recording the interview, which was aired Thursday evening, was made hours before the violent clashes between Morsi's supporters and opponents that left six dead and over 700 wounded.

"This regime is there and it has clear legitimacy and it should fulfil its term," Heikal said in a direct response to the calls that said were "wild but understandable" made by some demonstrators for Morsi to step down.

Heikal reminded viewers that since the 25 January Revolution forced Mubarak to step down on 11 February of the same year, the ‘down down’ cry has been ongoing. He prescribed the need for accommodation. He said a series of steps should be taken by the president to address the core of the problem: the controversial constitutional declaration and the call for the referendum on the constitution for 15 December.

The president, Heikal suggested, could, among other options, refer the draft of the constitution to an advisory board which would provide feedback before, not after the referendum, as Vice President Mahmoud Mekki had proposed on Tuesday evening when he proposed a national dialogue over the matter – but only after the referendum. "You cannot extend an invitation for a dialogue if something has turned into an accomplished fact," Heikal said.

The Hadidi interview was aired less than an hour before national TV broadcast a statement by President Morsi whereby he offered to host a national dialogue on Saturday "exactly at 12:30pm".

A dialogue, Heikal insisted, was only one of the things that he said Morsi needs to consider to reduce the tension that has been unfolding. Other moves to "open windows for an exit", Heikal argued, are left to the president and his aides to consider, taking into consideration that the opposition facing Morsi's recent decisions goes way beyond the 5,000 people that he said the president estimated were defying him.

In the interview Heikal stated that the US, "which has an intense and unhealthy influence on developments in Egypt today" seems to be convinced that political Islam is the answer to this region. This I say without any inclination to any conspiracies at all but the fact of the matter remains that unlike the nationalist trends which are usually at odds with American interests, the Islamist trend is capable of securing these interests."

Foreign influence, Heikal argued, is not the only factor deciding the scenario of the next day but it is a decisive factor, as is the declining state of the economy.

For Heikal, the past few days were loaded with symbolism that should not be overlooked. The presence of masses of demonstrators around the presidential palace in Heliopolis on 5 December was another "and even better played" tune than 25 January Revolution. "It is almost an extension of it, as if the youth were picking up from where they left off and as if all the developments of the interval between then and now were unfinished."

The Islamist demonstrations around the High Constitutional Court were also very symbolic for Heikal. For him, it recalled the history book accounts of the day the German Parliament was burnt down in 1933 following the electoral victory of Adolf Hitler. Heikal promptly noted, “of course the Muslim Brotherhood are not the Nazis and Morsi is not Hitler".

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