In Search of Egypt’s Fifth President: Amr Moussa

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A man walks under an election campaign billboard of presidential candidate and former Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa during the last campaign rally night in Cairo 20 May 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

By: Rana Mamdouh

Published Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Former foreign minister under Mubarak, Amr Moussa is confident of his chances of winning the presidential race. Al-Akhbar asks its fifth interviewee what he would achieve should he succeed.

Rana Mamdouh (RM): What do you think of the aftermath of your debate with candidate Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh?

Amr Moussa (AM): All opinions concede that the result of the TV debate between me and Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh was close, with some estimates in my favor and others in his.
For me, however, the real result was in exposing the difference between the two sides regarding key issues like democracy, a civil system of government, religious state, and foreign policy. It also delineated the contrast between political experience and ideological positions.

RM: On whose behalf are you running for president, and what do you say to those who accuse you of being a cornerstone of the Mubarak regime?

AM: I have nominated myself for all Egyptians. I believe that Egypt’s development and strength must come from good education, effective healthcare, and social justice. As such, the end result would be improving the living conditions of every citizen so that everyone has access to work and a fair income.

I tell those who accuse me of being a cornerstone of the Mubarak regime that I detached myself from that regime for ten years before Mubarak was ousted, and my disagreement with him before that was public and well-known in Egypt and abroad.

I’m a frontrunner for all Egyptians, including my brothers, the Copts. That means I’m a politician with national and democratic credentials that do not conflict with my Islam.

RM: If you win the elections, what would be the first issue on your agenda?

AM: The restoration of security and the application of the law are obviously the most deserving issues. Everything else in Egypt’s future depends on these two issues.

In my campaign I have pledged to end the continuous state of emergency during my first 100 days. Additionally, there are other issues that impose themselves, such as forming the new government and restarting the economy.

RM: What do you think of the Egyptian parliament’s performance during the last period?

AM: My opinion on parliament is not that different from the people’s opinion. It empowered a certain current, and instigated crises like the loss of confidence in the government and the formation of the Constituent Assembly.

It then withdrew from all these issues in a manner that made people question their performance. Even leading supporters of the majority such as Judge Tarek Bishri wrote about “the Brotherhood’s mistakes in the first 100 days in parliament.”

RM: If you win the elections, how will you deal with the parliament, considering its current political structure?

AM: This is the nature of democracy. If I win the presidential elections, the next item on my agenda for the formation of the new government is dialogue with all the political currents in parliament.

I want to set a method of cooperation between the president and parliament, keeping in mind that such cooperation is what the Egyptian people want — the same Egyptian people who voted for the current majority in parliament and would vote for me as president.

RM: Do you think the next president will have an incomplete set of powers, considering the presence of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF)? Where does the SCAF fit in after you’re voted in as president?

AM: The next president will be the main authority, and will have full responsibility for running the country. Power will be passed on to him by the SCAF as soon as the elections are over this coming June.

RM: How will you deal with a large group like the Muslim Brotherhood if you win the presidential elections, in light of their continuous threats of another revolution if someone from the previous regime wins?

AM: I haven’t heard of such a threat from the Muslim Brotherhood. They are campaigning against me using this pretext, but to ignite a revolution as a result of an honest election will be a mighty blow to the republic, and only God knows its outcome.

RM: What will your reaction be if there are demonstrations against you winning the presidential elections?

AM: The elections will be honest and transparent – there will be organizations monitoring them – and the result will reflect the people’s views. As such, any demonstrations against it will be a protest against the majority vote.

However, the right to demonstrate, freedom of speech, and peaceful sit-ins are naturally granted to everyone. They should even be defended by the president.

RM: Sinai is a controversial issue, how will you deal with it if you become president?

AM: The previous regime dealt with Sinai from a security standpoint, but I will listen to their problems and will work towards solving them.

It is part of my campaign that the people of Sinai will own their land, and I will work to end the discrimination against them in public employment and enrollment in the army, police, and the courts. I will do the same for all those marginalized by the previous regime.

RM: What is your assessment of your term as foreign minister during Mubarak’s rule?

AM: I was not serving the regime, I was serving my country. And for that I’m proud of my term as a foreign minister because I was serving Egypt, defending Egyptians’ rights abroad.

RM: Regarding foreign policy, how do you envisage Saudi-Egyptian relations after you win the elections?

AM: Saudi-Egyptian relations were always, and will always remain, a solid basis for pan-Arab cooperation, while mutual coordination is a necessity for both Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And there are no sticking issues that could lead to a clash between the two countries.

RM: Ties have been severed between Egypt and Iran since the Islamic Revolution there. What is your vision for diplomatic relations with Iran in the upcoming period?

AM: The Islamic Republic of Iran is a huge country in our region. Our relationship with Iran must contribute to the security of the region, through settling bilateral and collective disputes between it and the Arab countries.

If not, it will simply be a routine relationship that does not serve the true purpose of a relationship between two such major countries in the region.

RM: Israel, USA, and Egypt. How do you see relations in that triangle?

AM: The relationship with Israel is governed by accords. We will honor them to the same extent as Israel honors their commitments.

That, however, does not mean establishing a special relationship with Israel, and does not prevent us from re-negotiating the security arrangements in Sinai. Furthermore, the Palestinian cause is a decisive matter in Israeli-Egyptian relations.

Concerning relations with the US, it is a mutual affair, and not only a task for Egypt. So we should engage with American foreign policy. They need us like we need them – that means there will not be a return to the policy of placating Washington at any price.

RM: What will Amr Moussa offer to the Palestinian cause?

AM: The Palestinian cause should be at the forefront of the region’s affairs and the United Nations’ agenda.

There’s no doubt that Egypt, as a stable, developed, and strong republic can – in cooperation with our Arab brothers and friends around the world – return the cause to center stage once again, pressuring Israel to endorse a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital.

RM: How do you see an end to the Syrian impasse? Do you consider what is happening in Syria to be a revolution or merely a conspiracy?

AM: What is happening in Syria is certainly not only a conspiracy. These are people yearning for democracy, justice, and human rights, and I don’t think the steps taken by the government are enough to achieve these fair demands.

The solution I propose is a national reconciliation forum based on the Syrian people’s right to choose the government they want.

RM: In the end, who will Amr Moussa vote for if he leaves the race?

AM: I did not think about that possibility, and naturally I do not wish for it to happen.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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