In Search of Egypt’s Fifth President: Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh
Published Wednesday, May 23, 2012
In the last of Al-Akhbar’s series of interviews with Egypt’s presidential candidates, Abdel Rahman Youssef quizzes the former Muslim Brotherhood luminary who broke with the group to run as an independent.
Abdel Rahman Youssef: Why is Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh all things to all people? Why is his political mind that of a leftist academic rather than an Islamist ideologue?
Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh: Because our program is based on overcoming political and ideological polarization. Egypt belongs to all Egyptians, and the revolution would never have succeeded without overcoming that polarization. Now is not the time for partisanship and narrow ideological biases.
ARY: Critics say your program is that of an individual, not an institution like the Brotherhood, so you don’t have the popular base to implement it, and it only looks good on paper.
AAF: This is not correct. Our program is the work of a range of citizens from every intellectual, professional, and vocational walk of life, and we have a very broad base of supporters. We have 100,000 registered volunteers, and that doesn’t include the unregistered volunteers. We have a popular base and founding partners like the Nour, Wasat, Adl and other parties and other civil society organizations, and a varied range of experts and specialists who took part in drafting the program.
ARY: Why have you renounced the Islamist label, describing yourself instead as a conservative?
AAF: Because attaching this label to a candidate gives the false impression that the other candidates are not Islamist and are not proud of their Islam, which is not true. All the candidates, indeed all who work in Egyptian politics, are proud of our Islamic cultural terms of reference and Article 2 of the constitution [describing Islamic sharia as the principal source of legislation].
ARY: What are the main items of sharia that you will try to implement?
AAF: The greatest of what is in sharia are compassion and justice. If we achieve the revolution’s objectives of a decent living, social justice, freedom, and human dignity, we will have achieved the greatest of what is in sharia.
ARY: Do you think the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) will affect your ability to run the country if you win?
AAF: I don’t believe so. The president is head of the executive authority, of which the military establishment is part, so the relationship should be cooperative and conducted on a professional basis, and all in accordance with the law.
ARY: How will you deal with Marshal Hussein Tantawi if you win the presidency?
AAF: I have often said that the Marshal and others of his age, having served the homeland for so long, should rest. This would not be purging, but honoring. All positions and institutions of state need to be injected with new blood, and Egypt has an abundance of children who are capable of assuming responsibility.
ARY: Do you think the military establishment should pay taxes on the proceeds of its businesses?
AAF: It is not among the roles of the military establishment to have businesses unrelated to its noble mission of defending the homeland, in which we take pride. All economic activities should be part of a single state budget, with no special treatment for any entity. But because this a sensitive issue, it should be discussed within narrow confines by the national security committee in the People’s Assembly.
ARY: Do you support a so-called “safe exit” for the SCAF?
AAF: I support a just exit rather than a safe exit by the military. Personally, I forgive any injustice that was done to me, whether by army or interior ministry officers. But the judiciary must take its course in holding to account those who erred, and nobody has the right to defy the verdicts of the judiciary.
ARY: How will you deal with the MPs of the [Muslim Brotherhood’s] Freedom and Justice Party, and what’s your opinion of the Brotherhood?
AAF: The Brotherhood is a component of the national fabric, and it is unimaginable there would be a breach between the president and the parliamentary majority.
ARY: How will you deal with the Brotherhood’s leader, and how do you view his post?
AAF: We have affirmed previously that the Brotherhood as a religious organization should be subject to Egyptian law, and be registered as a society with the ministry of social solidarity. The leader should be an Egyptian citizen with the same rights and duties as any other.
ARY: What do you think of the issuing of a supplementary constitutional declaration defining the powers of the president?
AAF: No party is entitled to issue any legislation given the existence of an elected legislative authority, namely parliament.
ARY: Do you support reinstating the 1971 constitution until the new constitution is complete, or for the president to retain the powers contained in the current constitutional declaration?
AAF: I support granting the president the powers contained in the current constitutional declaration.
ARY: What are the first decisions you will take as president?
AAF: Trying to restore security within 100 days, and appointing a vice president under 45 years of age.
ARY: Do you think that the appointment of the minister of defense should be one of the prerogatives of the president, or of the SCAF or the National Security Council?
AAF: It is the president who appoints the minister of defense.
ARY: Do you support the idea of progressive taxation for businessmen as a way of achieving social justice and redistributing income?
AAF: Yes, our program provides for progressive, direct and fair taxes to ensure social justice and at the same time attract investment.
ARY: Will you leave the so-called “usury” banks in place, or replace them with Islamic banks and an Islamic economy?
AAF: That is a matter for economic experts and sharia scholars.
ARY: How do you view Egypt’s relationship with Israel and the status of the army in Sinai? What is your position on the Palestine question?
AAF: Egypt’ relationship with any state should be based on Egypt’s interest, nothing else. If it is in Egypt’s interest to reconsider the relationship – whether by breaking, reducing or enhancing it – we will respond to Egypt’s interest. There can be no abandonment of Egypt’s full sovereignty over its entire territory, including the eastern part of the Sinai Peninsula. If there is any impediment to achieving full Egyptian sovereignty, we will overcome it. As for our position on the Palestine question, it is clear and firm, as the Palestinian resistance movements can testify.
ARY: What is the truth about the video in which it was claimed you made statements to an Israeli TV channel? Did you knowingly give an interview to an Israeli channel?
AAF: It has been proven with irrefutable evidence that this video was fabricated. I did the interview in 2007 with an English journalist, and it was broadcast on an English channel. I was surprised to see it re-broadcast by an Israeli channel after it made up the interviewer’s questions and manipulated the replies.
ARY: How do you envisage ties with Iran? As strategic and complementary, or an ordinary relationship?
AAF: Relations with Iran should accord with Egypt’s national interest. We should have confidence in Egypt’s power as a central and influential state in the region. Egypt will not be the weaker party in any bilateral relationship with any state.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.