Alexandria, Asharq Al-Awsat – Judge Mahmoud al-Khudairi is the former vice president of the Egyptian Cassation Court. He is also a newly-elected member of the People’s Assembly, having won the seat of the Sidi Gabir district, Alexandria, in the latest round of the Egyptian parliamentary elections. In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat, conducted from the city of Alexandria, al-Khudairi spoke about his views on the Islamist current, which experienced unprecedented success in the recent elections, as well as the major tasks that Egypt’s new parliament will face, and his hopes for the future of the country.
The following is the full text of the interview:
[Asharq al-Awsat] You engaged in a fierce electoral battle with a former member of the dissolved Egyptian National Democratic Party [NDP] in Alexandria, resulting in your winning a seat in the Egyptian parliament. But on closer inspection, you did not win this seat outright during the first round, whilst your rival received hundreds of thousands of votes, does this mean that the former regime still enjoys popular support?
[Al-Khudairi] The question was never about popularity or support for the former regime, the district which I have been elected to represent is full of poor and deprived areas, and my opponent used his financial clout in a manner that has never been witnessed in any election before, whether in terms of publicity or to influence the voters. I offered nothing but my love for the people, God bless them, and those who voted for me offered nothing but love to me. I hope that I can achieve something for them through my position in the People’s Assembly, and improve their situation. There was nothing going on between me and those who voted for me in terms of personal interests, and this is what warmed my heart. I won, thanks to God, by a margin of 10 thousand votes, and I thank God that the city of Alexandria is now free from the so-called “remnants of the dissolved NDP”, as not one of them was successful in the parliamentary elections.
[Asharq al-Awsat] In the elections, the Muslim Brotherhood group and its “Freedom and Justice” Party declared its support for you. Are you affiliated to the Brotherhood, or will you seek to join its political party in the future?
[Al-Khudairi] I am not a member of the Freedom and Justice Party, nor any other party for that matter. However, this did not prevent the Freedom and Justice Party from supporting me strongly during the elections. In fact, I did not only receive support from that party, but also from a lot of other parties.
[Asharq al-Awsat] Does this mean you will coordinate with the Muslim Brotherhood in the forthcoming parliament?
[Al-Khudairi] This is not the case whatsoever; their support for me does not mean that they expect something in return. They supported me because they were convinced by me, not because they expected something. Otherwise, they would have supported candidates who were originally affiliated to their party, as happened in all other districts of Alexandria. But in the district of Sidi Gaber, they considered me to be the best choice, and did not push my rivals ahead of me. However, I must emphasize that my decisions and vision [for the future] are my own, and I may agree or disagree with members of the Freedom and Justice Party, or others inside parliament accordingly. I will agree upon whatever is consistent with my vision, and I will reject whatever I deem worthy of rejection, regardless of anything else, for I am not affiliated to any party.
[Asharq al-Awsat] As one of Egypt’s legal experts, can you tell us what legislation Egypt’s People Assembly should seek to issue in the forthcoming phase?
[Al-Khudairi] I will seek to fully re-examine all Egyptian laws. The revolution’s parliament must lead a major campaign, whereby the culture of the revolution is transferred from the streets and the squares into parliament itself, so that we also have a complete legislative revolution. We have many old laws that do not fit with our current time and these should be addressed. There must also be a review of certain laws that were enacted during the era of the former Hosni Mubarak regime, in order to serve the personal interests of certain individuals. Laws must be applied generally, addressing the entire Egyptian populace, and they must be devoid of any private or personal agendas.
[Asharq al-Awsat] In light of the parliamentary election results, which revealed that the Islamists may have a large majority in the forthcoming parliament; do you expect parliament to enact legislation enshrining religious laws, such as imposing the hijab and so on?
[Al-Khudairi] (Laughing) Of course not. This is not our area of interest at all. Rather, the legislation that will be put forward – and I know this because I am close to the Islamist currents – will look to solve all the problems that are currently being experienced in Egypt; from addressing the deterioration in education to providing security for citizens, reforming the health sector and providing housing for young people. Also there will be economic reforms, so that citizens feel an increase in their income. All this is enough to be getting on with, and there is no tendency to think in terms of the type of legislation you have mentioned.
[Asharq al-Awsat] What is your opinion on the ongoing trials of members of the former regime? Do you agree that they are moving very slowly, and is it possible to enact legislation in the new parliament for the establishment of special courts to consider these cases?
[Al-Khudairi] There are two types of crimes here. The first are those that have already been referred and are now pending before the courts, and here it would be very difficult to enact specific legislation without suspicions of interference, or redirecting cases that are already pending before a panel of judges. To suddenly change the court that is dealing with the case, under any guise, would be difficult.
As for the second type of crime, this includes offences that have not been investigated yet. For these crimes it would be possible to pass special legislation so that they could be investigated in front of a special court that is enshrined in the law. This has happened in the past when legislation provided for the establishment of special courts, such as economic and family courts.
[Asharq al-Awsat] What is your view on the formation of a constituent assembly, elected by the parliament, to draft a new constitution?
[Al-Khudairi] The matter is clear, the text of the constitutional declaration provides for members of the People’s Assembly and Shura Council to form this constituent assembly. My personal take on the assembly is that it must include representatives from all walks of life, in addition to members of the People’s Assembly and Shura Council, as well as professors of constitutional law, and representatives from all professional associations and unions. As a matter of necessity, the new constitution must entrench human rights and preserve the dignity of the Egyptian people. It must not give any executive power the right to pass emergency laws that infringe upon personal or public freedoms, for any reason.
[Asharq al-Awsat] What is your opinion on the concerns of a large segment of Egyptian society and the international community, towards the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power in Egypt?
[Al-Khudairi] These concerns are not justified at all. I can reassure the Egyptian people and the international community that a Brotherhood government, if it happens, would be pure and patriotic, and would work for the common good. As for the scarecrow – erected by the Mubarak regime to promote itself domestically and internationally – about the danger of the Islamists coming to power, this was nothing more than rhetoric intended to strengthen the regime’s grip on power. Meanwhile, reality dictates that the Muslim Brotherhood are a part of the Egyptian people, who have as much right to assume power as anybody else. Furthermore, whoever wins the majority in an election has the right to govern. The people will be able to judge for themselves based on their own experiences. Either the Brotherhood will succeed and repeat their electoral success, or they will fail and others will be elected…this is democracy.
[Asharq al-Awsat] Do you think it would be better for Egypt to move to a parliamentary system of government? Or would you rather see a continuation of the current system?
[Al-Khudairi] In my personal opinion, I prefer the parliamentary system. Under such a system, there are two authorities; the authority of the President of the Republic, and the authority of the parliament. Thus, power cannot be accumulated in the hands of one entity or person. The President will be granted certain powers….but at the same time, there will be two authorities, rather than a single authority. I think that this system will guarantee that dictatorship will not be repeated in Egypt again, and I will work through my position in the People’s Assembly to endorse the parliamentary system, and enshrine its implementation in the new constitution.
[Asharq al-Awsat] How do you envision relations with Israel in the post-revolution phase?
[Al-Khudairi] Let’s talk frankly in this regard. Israel must be handled with great caution, and the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty must be re-examined, especially in relation to the reconstruction of Sinai, which is yet to be completed in full. The agreement cannot prevent any state from freely carrying out reconstruction projects on its own territory. However, this does not mean that the current treaty recognizes this, for there is much ambiguity regarding the terms of the treaty and its specific appendices. Thus, we must raise the question of the treaty in its entirety, and present it before parliament to re-examine and re-define its terms.
[Asharq al-Awsat] What is the first question or request for information that you plan to submit in the forthcoming parliament, and to whom?
[Al-Khudairi] There are two requests I intend to submit to the Egyptian Foreign Minister. The first is to disclose the agreement under which gas is exported to Israel, which I deem to be illegal or unconstitutional, because it is squandering the country’s natural resources, which are the right of the Egyptian people. As for my second briefing request, this will refer to the continued blockade of Gaza, and Egypt’s international role in lifting this blockade, as the situation in Gaza can be considered an extension of Egyptian national security.
[Asharq al-Awsat] Finally, you have been nominated by several national forces to assume the presidency of the forthcoming People’s Assembly. What is your comment on this?
[Al-Khudairi] I thank them for that, but in any case such talk is premature. When the time comes, every action will have a reaction.