A Crisis of Mistrust

Amr Moussa will run as an independent candidate in the forthcoming Egyptian presidential elections

Amr Moussa speaks of his concerns surrounding a potential monopoly of power in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood and attempts to distance himself from associations with the old regime. The 76 year-old former secretary general of the Arab league plays up his international credentials and suggests that his foreign policy would be more in keeping with popular opinion than in the past.

The Majalla: How do you evaluate the current political scene in Egypt?

The current political scene in Egypt is confusing, because the constitution and the presidential elections are confronting obstacles. Time runs quickly and the visions of many parties are unclear. Some of these parties change their decisions day by day according to their expected gains, which sometimes are part of wider deals.

[inset_left]Omar Suleiman’s attempt to run for office worried the people... It has deepened the crisis of mistrust.[/inset_left]

Q: What does this mean in your opinion?

This means that there is no far-sighted vision. Unfortunately, the confusion in drafting the constitution has led us to a complicated situation with limited time because no deadline is specified to finish the constitutional process.

Q: Do you think that Omar Suleiman’s candidacy has further complicated the situation, even after his disqualification?

Undoubtedly, Omar Suleiman’s attempt to run for office worried the people—especially those who don’t trust the military council. It has deepened the crisis of mistrust. All in all, the political scene in Egypt now is very confusing and complex; any step taken without careful deliberation will lead to a new crisis, while the economy is still unstable and security is not completely restored.

Q: What is your comment on the exclusion of Suleiman, El-Shater and Abu Ismail from the presidential race?

I have no comment on this decision as it is legal. Exclusion was due to legal not political reasons.

Q: Do you fear that reaction to these exclusions will affect the presidential elections, particularly in the light of threats by Abu Ismail’s supporters?

I don’t think that these exclusions will affect the presidential elections.  The danger comes from a general confusion and from the possibility of low confidence in the final results as long as some groups object to the exclusion of some candidates—although they are legally-based.

Q: Do you think these exclusions will be in your favor?

Why will be they in my favor only, not for all candidates? I have introduced myself as an independent candidate to represent all people and speak for them, either with or without these exclusions.

Q: It is frequently said that you are working to attract the supporters of Omar Suleiman, what is your opinion?

Any serious candidate aiming to carry a national mission seeks to win the votes of everybody. For me, I hope to get the votes of those who see themselves in the camp of religious-based candidates.

Q: How do you assess the Muslim Brotherhood’s political performance so far?

My assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood’s performance doesn’t differ from that of the public opinion. I’m not convinced with their justification for fielding a candidate in the presidential elections, after they had pledged that they would not. I acknowledge that everyone has the right to run for office as long as he meets the constitutional terms. I also fear the Muslim Brotherhood would be tempted by their new authority especially if they win the presidency. Their political power would extend to include administrative, economic, banking, media, cultural and judicial sectors. Thus, Egypt would be governed by one political segment represented by the Brotherhood.

Q: Do you think it would be dangerous if this happens?

In my opinion, this would harm Egypt on the domestic and foreign levels. It would not help build the state but, I fear, it could split the society and main institutions in Egypt.

Q: Which is more dangerous for Egypt, sheikhs or feloul (remnants of the former regime)?

Sometimes, simplification is harmful and we should first define who the feloul are. Definitely, being a citizen, I reject the notion of bringing the figures of the former National Democratic Party back to rule Egypt.

Q: There are some people who object to Amr Moussa as president and consider him among the feloul.

Those who say that I’m one of the feloul purposely forget my public position against many of the former regime’s policies, my complete separation from its foreign policies and my objection to many of its internal policies. These stances have been published by Egyptian and foreign writers and corroborated by dignitaries including Rafik Hariri, the late Lebanese Prime Minister, and Madeleine Albright, the former US Secretary of State.

I ask those who consider me feloul, who was it that led the modernization process in China? Was it not Deng Xiaoping, who was a member of the former regime and opposed it as I did Mubarak’s regime? I note that I do not approve the position of Deng Xiaoping, who was not enthusiastic for democratization in China, but only for the economic transition.

Q: What are the qualifications of presidential candidate Amr Moussa compared to his rivals?

I worked as Egypt’s Foreign Minister which provided me with experience and international relations that I consider advantages not defects. I intend to employ all this experience in getting Egypt back on its feet and overseeing the democratic transition peacefully. I hope voters see my ability to represent the majority of Egyptians, not one group or stream.

Q: What is your answer to the people who call for a young president?

The criteria are physical and mental fitness, in addition to experience and international contacts. We shouldn’t forget that Constantine Karamanlis, who restored democracy to Greece after military rule, was over eighty years old. This doesn’t mean I don’t respect the youth’s enthusiasm or suppose that none of them are able to lead the country, but assuming responsibility in a major transitional phase needs experience and determination, and I humbly think that I have both.

Q: If you lose in the elections, do you expect a military or religious candidate will rule Egypt?

I expect that the majority of Egyptian people don’t want a General or a cleric to rule Egypt.

Q: What are the reasons behind the frequent clashes witnessed during your campaign tours?

These are not clashes, but acts by certain individuals who have specific political connections.

Q: Is it possible to cooperate with Islamists if you become president?

Cooperation with all constitutional institutions is essential in order to fulfill the revolution’s demands and citizens’ security.

Q: What is your opinion of the military council’s threats to delay the presidential elections if the constitution is not issued?

We have never heard explicit threats by the military council to delay the presidential elections. I think that the elections should be held as planned even if the constitution is not finished.

Q: What do you think of the reports that the generals prefer certain candidates against the others? Is this in your favor or not?

In the beginning it was said that the military council supported Dr. El-Awwa, who is a religious candidate. Then it was said that it wanted Mr Mansour Hassan as a consensus candidate, and it also was said that the council was behind Omar Suleiman’s candidacy—before barring him. Now it is said that the council prefers Lieutenant General Ahmed Shafiq. But the council itself says it is neutral—and that’s our hope.

Q: What will be your stance towards your political opponents? Is it possible to cooperate with them? 

I don’t know what you mean by political opponents, are they the competitors in the elections or do you mean the political religious stream, or the youth powers who want a candidate who is not among all candidates.

I’m not a leader of a party or a stream, but I introduce myself to Egyptians as being affiliated to the majority and to the principles and aims of the revolution. Thus I’m committed to cooperation with all streams and powers that work for the sake of the higher interest of the nation and also for the principles and aims of the revolution.

Q: What will your foreign policy be? Will it be more compatible with the Egyptian street than it was in Mubarak’s era?

My position when I was foreign minister was more compatible with Arab and Egyptian street in the past. If I become a president, definitely, my foreign policy will be also more compatible with the Egyptian and Arab Street.

Q: Do you expect a solution to the Iranian issue if you win the presidential elections or it will remain suspended?

The Iranian issue has its international and regional dimensions and there should be Arab and regional initiatives. The concept of collective security based on respecting the sovereignty of states and not interfering in their internal affairs will be the best solution, provided that there is solidarity between Arabs.

Q: What is the position of Arab cooperation, especially with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in your foreign policy?

Arab cooperation is necessary to all Arab states; it has regional and international importance. Undoubtedly, both Egypt and KSA are key states; they have Islamic backgrounds and neighboring borders. Their peoples and economies are intermingled.  Arab future mostly depends on the effective cooperation between Egypt and KSA.

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