You know the drill…
From al-Shorouk’s December 23 edition:
Al-Baradei In His First Comprehensive Interview With al-Shorouk (Part 1 of 3): “Change Can’t Wait Until The Election”
Part 1 of TBE’s version, which contains approximately half of al-Shorouk’s part 1, is here. Sorry for any confusion.
The most recent amendments to the constitution include a quota for women, which some saw as complementing the seats reserved for workers and fellahin (farmers), which is similar to the “social contract between all classes of people” to which you refer. Why does the constitution provide a quota for representatives drawn from among the workers and farmers?
There was good reason for this after 1952. Now there is another quota, for women. What about the Copts? How many Copts are there in the People’s Assembly? You find only one Copt was elected, and the Copts are no less than 8% of the population, which is a problem.
Women now have 64 seats, and farmers have 50 seats, while Copts have one seat. All of this is demagoguery, it is not evidence of logical thinking. All of these should be considered by a committee composed of all political forces, from Islamists to Marxists, which will be tasked with agreeing on how to provide equality and justice in the constitution. The work will not be easy due to the presence of numerous political factions, but it must be done that way.
The new constitution must obtain social peace for all political factions: Muslim, Copt, Bahai, children and women. It must inspire trust amongst them that their rights are guaranteed and that the state will work with them to advance their rights vis-à-vis their fellow citizens. The current constitution is the fifth since the revolution, following the constitutions of 1953, 1956 and 1958, then 1964 and 1971. Five constitutions in just 50 years… If we found that the constitution is not suitable to our needs then we need to quickly put a new one its place that guarantees citizens their interests and rights will be protected, guarantees Egypt’s independence, and ensures our development in a disciplined way. The difference between a revolution and a legislative system is that progress in the latter comes from disciplined changes to the Constitution and laws.
We need a kind of national reconciliation and dialogue. It may run in parallel with the constitution so that the constitution represents our realities and not the mask we place on it.
What do you see as the starting point in restoring the constitution’s prestige and role?
If we want a real new beginning then we need to write a new constitution, because even the wisest ruler would face political, social and economic problems with this constitution. There will not be democracy or freedom without a new constitution because freedom and development and social justice are all tied together.
We find ourselves today in an unstable position, and we can’t wait two years to get out of it. The problem is that the constitution is not thought of as an integrated whole and the balance of powers that guarantees one authority does not trample others is absent. For that reason I call on President Mubarak to establish a founding committee to promulgate a new constitution, with its members elected directly and including experts in constitutional law. The committee should be an expression of all the political factions in Egypt, from the far right to the far left, because it will be tasked with paving the way for a strong social peace in Egypt.
We are not inventing the wheel, the committee may include a number of appointed jurists, so long as it includes the best of them. This social peace should be based on the national interest. We have many problems: for example between Muslims and Copts, and it is not enough to say we are all part of the national fabric and we laugh at ourselves. We must acknowledge that there are national minorities, and that minorities will always receive special protections from the judicial authorities, and we can’t just bury our heads in the sand. If we continue the discourse of “one national fabric and we don’t have any problems, based on genuine Egyptian values,” can someone describe to me what are genuine Egyptian values today?
The conditions placed on forming a party today in Egypt are laughable. If a citizen wants to form a new party, he needs to bring the matter before a committee headed by the ruling party, so it is done under the umbrella of the ruling party. There is condition that the new party needs to be different than any of the existing parties. The differences between the parties have become non-existent, and it is not easy to easily determine whether a party is different. The idea that the ruling party must agree to the formation of a new party makes the whole process a form of theater, because a party means the right of assembly, and it just needs to notify the ruling party of its formation, and the ruling party does not have the right to decide who speaks or how they speak or demonstrate and in what style.
If the constitution in its current form requested that I act in front of the ruling party if I want to found a party, to declare the reasons for my desire to found a new party, then the ruling party issues a decision accepting or rejecting my petition, then this privilege cannot, in the final analysis, belong to the ruling party, because it undermines the most basic principles of democracy. In this situation, no individual can respect himself while working in this framework, because it makes all of these processes artificial. Additionally, the demands I made are not conditions or bred of arrogance, but rather because I will not enter elections unless I have a chance of winning. Otherwise I will be just part of the décor.
Why did you demand, in your statement, that the next president will be “a consensus president”?
In 1952, the revolution was accompanied by oppressive conditions in Egypt, beginning with the trials of the Muslim Brotherhood and continuing to the persecution of Communists, then we moved from a system of national capitalism to what is referred to as an open market economy. The state was based on what one knows, and not on a true foundation. The result is that some people have been able to exploit loopholes and become billionaires. There has been a profound decline since the revolution. Some policies have been carried out while others remain unimplemented, the middle class, the belt of society, has disappeared. A new class, referred to as the nouveau riche, has appeared, and societal values are determined by this class. The result has been that the fundamental values in Egypt today are power and money and not knowledge. The question becomes: Why am I judged by the power and money I possess and not on my knowledge or abilities?
Since 1952 we have become a partitioned society. We live like tribes, not gathering together for any reason. Public values have disappeared in Egypt over the past 50 years, and a tribal spirit has grown among us. When you travel north from the capital you see how people live, with their villas and easy life and opulence, and their values are not connected to Egypt. And traveling in the opposite direction we find the most glaring poverty. We walk in the streets and we don’t see the poor. We don’t pay attention to the fundamental problems of our society.
You speak of a society that has lost its values over the past six decades and surrendered to a spirit of tribalism and fragmentation. What do you see as a way of dealing with these problems?
The first step is being open about the mistakes we have made since 1952. We have done good things, but we have made many mistakes, and we should acknowledge them. For example, among our economic mistakes there were big plans about which millions agreed, and we don’t know their fate. Like the East Branch (TBE: ???), who is responsible?
We don’t have a system of accountability. This does not mean that I am asking that anyone be held accountable right now. At this point we are not able to shift our gaze from the future to holding people accountable. Our problems are much bigger than what could be accomplished by trials and penalties. The past is the past, at least at the current stage, when Egypt is mired in problems. The question is how to move forward.