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Amr Moussa: Egypt's political parties "weak" but not ineffective - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Former Egyptian foreign minister and presidential candidate Amr Moussa speaks during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Egypt on March 11, 2014. (Reuters/Asmaa Waguih)

Former Egyptian foreign minister and presidential candidate Amr Moussa speaks during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Egypt on March 11, 2014. (Reuters/Asmaa Waguih)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Although Egypt’s political parties are “weak,” they can play an effective role in forming the next parliament and launching a political movement in Egypt, Amr Moussa said.

The Egyptian statesman and political veteran spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat about the political situation in Egypt as the country gears up for parliamentary elections early next year.

Moussa said he had yet to decide whether he will stand for parliament, and if he does, what electoral list he will back, but stressed that whatever happens, Egypt’s next parliament will not be dominated by remnants of either the Mubarak or Mursi regimes.

Egypt must hold parliamentary elections before March 2015, according to the military-backed roadmap that saw the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

The country is in the process of finalizing a draft election law. According to local media, a total number of 231 electoral districts have been proposed in the draft law, with Cairo governorate having the greatest number of constituencies and Aswan the fewest; districts will be split between three, two and one parliamentary seats. According to the law, Egypt’s parliament will be made up of a total of 567 seats; 420 reserved for independents, 120 for party-affiliated candidates and 27 to be filled by presidential appointment.

Asharq Al-Awsat: What preparations have been made for the forthcoming parliamentary elections? How do you view the nature of the present [electoral] alliances?

Amr Moussa: A number of parties have been actively communicating with each other. Just as students start preparations before exams in Egypt, [electoral] alliances and coalitions need to find a common ground in order to approach a common vision. Several parties are trying to achieve this goal. This includes [the electoral lists of] Dr. Kamal El-Ganzouri, Dr. Abdel-Galil Mustafa and the electoral list dominated by the Wafd Party. I think they are similar in the way that they think; therefore, it is necessary for them to team up to form a single list, namely the national list that brings together the center-right and center-left. The religious and left-wing parties may form their own [electoral] lists.

Q: What about the suspended Democratic Alliance for Egypt (NDP)?

Most of the former NDP members are now independents. I think it will only nominate a few of its old faces. There are new faces and conditions in Egypt and a different public opinion and mood. Therefore, I do not think that the next parliament will be, under any circumstances, a reproduction of previous parliament.

Q: Where do you stand on these coalitions? Which will you side with? What role can you play?

As an Egyptian citizen I do not feel bound by any [official] posts and I find myself in a strong position where, due to my knowledge of the status quo, I can say what I want in terms of domestic and foreign policy. This is better than nominating myself to any [government] position. As for whether I will contest the parliamentary elections, my decision will depend on my assessment of the situation and will be made at the right time.

Q: If you decided to run for the elections, will you side with this national list?

Perhaps, yes. It brings together the three electoral lists I mentioned before and can reflect clear and patriotic stances that serve the supreme interests of the Egyptian people and achieve their vision and desire for development and change. In addition to this, it can meet future needs in a way consistent with the tough situation facing the region.

However, I still have time to examine the issue while I continue to observe the activities of these alliances. I have found that many of the figures I have met with from across the political spectrum agree with me on the needs and requirements of the current stage and addressing all the issues that serve the Egyptian state. But so far I have made no promises to join this or that side. I am yet to make up my mind and it is subject to evaluation.

Q: There are fears that the NDP or some religious groups will gain control of the parliament. What do you think?

This will not happen because the Egyptian people have enough vision and awareness to immunize them against handing over the parliament, once again, to either of the two. But figures affiliated with the two former regimes, who are renowned for their sense of patriotism and opinions, may come forward. No Egyptian has the right to prevent any other Egyptian, with honorable stances, from participating in the political process.

Q: The Egyptian people have a deep vision but the political parties do not enjoy public support. Do you expect political parties in Egypt can have a tangible role on the ground?

‘Weak’ is the description that immediately comes to mind when faced with the word [political] ‘party.’

Q: Would you agree that the concept of a political party in Egypt has been reduced to an office and a name?

Not all of them. There are political parties that have supporters—perhaps not on the level of the Egyptian republic but in certain provinces. Therefore, some of these parties can produce a considerable number of MPs. They may be weak but not ineffective. I think the beginning of a political movement in Egypt will be from within the parliament.

Q: Over the past few years you have been involved in Egyptian politics in a number of different capacities, most recently chairing the 50-member constitutional drafting committee. You have also come out on a number of occasions to issue statements publicly seeking to “correct” wrong political stances. Do you think Egypt’s political parties can reach a level where they can be a true help to the government?

The next parliament will be part of the state and act as the legislative power along with the judicial and executive branches of power. All sides should understand the need to work jointly in order to get Egypt out of this exceptional situation. It is important that joint work be based on understanding among all officials. That is, there is a need for drawing up some social and economic laws and bringing about true reform in terms of education. All the service institutions concerned with people’s daily lives need to mobilize their power to achieve this goal. Therefore, we should not waste time in futile discussions. It would also be necessary to take into account time factors in addressing regional and international needs.

Q: Do you expect the security situation will improve during and after the elections?

The security situation is stable and the remaining proportion of violent incidents can be best described as “hit-and-run” attacks taking place sporadically here and there. This situation is temporary . . . Life [in Egypt] goes on normally: schools and universities are open, so are commercial and agricultural businesses, and government departments are functioning. Everything is in full swing, even if attacks are taking place every now and then.

This is an abridged version of an interview originally conducted in Arabic.