‘Religious rhetoric won’t help Egypt’s new head solve real problems’

President Morsi’s success as the new head of Egypt will depend on his ability to solve urgent problems rather then skills in political debate, says his former competitor Amre Moussa. That can only be achieved by keeping the country secular, he says.

The former presidential hopeful shared with RT his view on what he calls highjacking of Egypt’s revolution, its uncertain political future and the ongoing historic shifts in the Arab world in general.

RT: Many people were surprised that you did not make it through to the second round of the recent presidential election. Why do you think you did not do as well as expected?

Amr Moussa: I was among those who were astonished that I didn’t make it. But this is democracy: the results are not guaranteed, they are never guaranteed. But I am glad that the democratic process has really started. The elections were observed by international, Arab and civil society organizations in Egypt. I have my own reasons and I understand what happened, how things were managed in the last few days.

But my concern is not this. My concern is that the democratic process should not be derailed. Especially at this stage where we are just starting. So I am glad that things went that way. It would have been much better had I been in the second round of the race, but it is immaterial compared to the process itself and the preservation of the initiative towards democracy.

RT: The revolution failed. The revolution, in your words, was supposed to achieve democracy. Why do you think it was unable to sustain itself?

AM: Because of so many mistakes. And the mistakes were committed by all parties to the Egyptian scene. You cannot accuse one party of monopolizing the mistakes. The Egyptian revolution was subjected to hijacking from the very first minute.

The oneness of the goal to put an end to the former regime brought everybody together. It was not really observed, noticed, understood, that [there existed] forces other than the real forces of the revolution. Once the regime came to its end and the former president decided to abdicate, differences started. And many forces, especially from the right, attempted to speak on behalf of the revolution and to hijack it. And that was seen in many organizations and unions and parties, each of them claiming to represent the revolution. And they were talking past each other different political languages.

RT: Could the revolution have worked? What was needed for it to achieve its goals?

AM: I believe one party – one heavyweight – and clear goals. In order to be able to compete and get into the parliament and compete and get into the government. But the several voices, different logics, different emphases and the attempts to highjack it to the effect that they called the elected parliament a “parliament of the revolution”. That was a bit strange. The revolution was not a religious one. So the misconception, the misunderstanding, the misrepresentation of things…

However, regardless of the absence of the actual presence of the revolution, the spirit of the revolution is still there. The feeling that this is a different time and different era and different philosophy and different goals – this spirit is still there. So I do not think that the Egyptian revolution was defeated. But it was definitely subjected to a lot of pressure: efforts to derail the revolution, efforts to finish off the revolution. But its spirit and the general feeling that we have already entered a different era is still there.

RT: What does a Morsi win mean for Egypt? Are you concerned that Egypt will become a more Islamist state?

AM: I believe there will be a lot of disagreement on that point. Egypt is not ready to be anything but a civil state. It means that the success or failure of President Morsi will be by what he would do to deal with the problems of Egypt rather than getting into political talk about the philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood.

RT: Are you concerned by the growing Islamist fundamentalism in the region?

AM: No, why should I be concerned? The point is that this is a religion, not politics. Politics is something else. A government has to be civil. This is what I believe in. We live in the 21st century. We have problems in our country, in our region. We have to deal with them with all the means and ways that we see fit to deal with that. Religion is something else. We need a civil state. We need a modern constitution. And Egypt has always had a modern constitution starting with the 1923 constitution. Separation of authorities, independence of the judiciary power…

The government has constitution as its sole reference – nothing else. Only the constitution. Independence of judiciary is so important and vital! Human rights and fundamental freedoms, rights of women – all those principles should be enshrined in addition to the non-discrimination or citizens, in addition to the basic nature or religion, that it has its role, but its role as defined in the constitution, nothing more.

RT: But the military have made themselves responsible for writing the new constitution. Are you confident that the military will be able to give the people a constitution that they accept?

AM: It’s not the military that are going to write the constitution. It’s the constitutional assembly that will have to write it; Constitutional assembly with the representation of all factions of our society. Nobody expects the military to write the constitution. The amendments of the constitutional declarations are all stop-gap arrangements. It is the construction that will rule Egypt.

RT: But the military will choose the people who will write this constitution.

AM: Well, until now we have a committee already in place of the constitutional assembly. It has some controversy around it. So we will see what kind of proposals the Supreme Council will come with. But many of us have their own opinions about it. So it will not be that the military would just appoint – they will sell it, they will consult, that’s what I expect.

RT: You were head of the Arab League for a decade. How do you explain the Arab League’s stance on Syria, which has surprised many?

AM: The situation in Syria is different from the situation in Libya. The Arab League played an important role in Libya in order to pave the way for change and to save civilians. It was supported by almost everybody. In Syria it is different because of the strategic situation. None of the countries surrounding Syria had a revolution. Libya had Egypt and Tunisia to the east and west – both in the state of revolution. So the neighborhood was already ready to support the revolution in Libya. As for Syria, many countries around it are really concerned that things would get out of hand.

But this is the spirit of change. This is the era of change. And change is the name of the game. Forget the western expression “the Arab Spring” or any other expression of that kind. It is the spirit of change. Change is the name of the game. And change is the historical development. It is not just a sporadic thing. So it is a matter of time, in my opinion. Change will take place in Syria, especially after the bloodshed that happened there. You cannot get back to square one. It’s very difficult to get back to square one to be accepted.

The powers differ on how to deal with Syria. Some put the blame on Russia. But I believe this is a lucky hanger. There is no western plan for Syria. There is a lot of hesitation, a lot of disharmony among the power on what to do with Syria. But the natural development of things will play its role. What happened cannot reach the point of going back to square one that easy. Don’t forget that this is the time for change, and change is the name of the game. And Syria is no exception.