In two consecutive meetings with leading members of various civil society groups, on Wednesday and Thursday, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, who announced his candidacy for president last week, presented his vision of a roadmap designed to bring the Egyptian revolution to fruition, defeat the concerted attempts at counter-revolution and rebuild the nation as a fully functioning democracy.
In both meetings, held in the shadow of the attacks on Copts in the village of Soul, and in the Cairo district of Manshiyat Nasser, Moussa, who asked participants to address him as "Citizen" Amr Moussa, rather than as Secretary General, warned against the dangers of counter-revolution. As he pointed out also in an official statement on Thursday, Moussa asserted that these incidents were not spontaneous eruptions, but rather deliberate, well-planned attempts at subversion and counter-revolution instigated and waged by the “remnants of the old regime”.
In substantiating this assertion, Moussa pointed to the spirit of tolerance and unity shown by millions of protesters during the revolution, with Muslims and Christians praying alongside one another, and with Coptic youth creating human shields to protect Muslims as they conducted their prayers. He referred further to the fact that “the Jewish synagogue in Adly street, a few minutes walk from Tahrir, and along which waves of protesters would pass daily on their to the square, was not touched, despite the total absence of any police protection around it.”
For Moussa, this was evidence of the new spirit generated by the revolution, which stood in marked contrast to the attempts at sectarian and religious incitement, which were hallmarks of the old regime.
It was also with an eye on the counter-revolution that Moussa declared his utter rejection of Constitutional Amendments, which are to be put to public referendum on the 19th of this month, as of the timetable for presumably democratic reforms based on these amendments.
The amendments, as formulated by a special committee set up by the supreme council of the armed forces, are flawed in fundamental ways, said Moussa. First, approval of the amendments would bring the current constitution, which had been suspended by the military, back to life. This is an authoritarian constitution, wholly rejected by the people and the revolution, who demand a new democratic constitution.
Secondly, Moussa noted, the amendments, while reforming the terms for the nomination and election of the president and limit the presidential period to a maximum of two four-year terms, wholly neglect the absolute powers granted that president under the current constitution. Such powers would make of any president a dictator, he said.
But, most worrying of all in Moussa’s opinion, is the timetable that comes with these amendments. According to this timetable, parliamentary elections would be held within a four-months period. This, insists Moussa, is a recipe for disaster.
Early elections under current conditions, argued Moussa, would lead to a chaotic and violence-dominated poll and result in a parliament that would be dominated in part by the “network” of the defunct ruling party, and in another by the Muslim Brotherhood, with possibly another third part made up of a motley collection of disparate MPs, unable to act as a bloc. And it would be these, Moussa noted, who would be charged with creating the 100-man constituent assembly mandated to draw up a new Constitution.
Moussa’s alternative roadmap, on the other hand, is made up of the following:
1- A Constitutional Declaration, setting down the most important democratic reforms, including those dealing not just with presidential elections and term, but also with the huge powers given to the president under the current constitution. Unlike the proposed amendments, such a constitutional declaration would not revive the old authoritarian constitution, but would serve to provide the ground necessary to move further steps along the path of a fully democratic political system.
2- Holding presidential elections, in accordance with the Constitutional Declaration. The election of a new president would make it possible for the army to fade into the background, and working with the provisional government, that president would set about introducing the wide-ranging reforms needed to ensure the enactment of a new constitution and holding genuinely democratic and free parliamentary elections.
3- Such reforms would include foiling attempts at counter-revolution and subversion, dissolving the NDP and NDP dominated local government bodies, purging legislation of all anti-democratic elements, and restructuring the domestic security apparatus, as well as allowing the widest civil liberties, including the full freedom to organize politically.
4- The new president would oversee the convening of a popularly elected representative Constituent Assembly mandated to draw up a new democratic Constitution for the country, which would be put to popular referendum.
5- Parliamentary elections would then be held within six months of the enactment of the new constitution, all of which would allow the various political forces generated by the revolution to build their political organizations and to be able to put up candidates and campaign throughout the country.
In both meetings, attendents spoke frankly with Moussa, one of them - an Egyptian pharmacist who recently returned from the US - asking him about the state of his heatlh, and whether he was taking any drugs that might affect his judgement or retard the swiftness of his reaction to developments. There was general agreement in both meetings, however, that Moussa should not wait till the end of his term in the Arab League before he intervenes openly and forcefully in the current political process in the country.
One participant told Moussa: "the attempts at counter-revolution may make your candidacy for president redundant; if the current timetable is put into effect we may not see presidential elections worth their name. You want to be president, you must act presidential now."
In spite of the delicacy of his position as Arab League Secretary General, Moussa had been making increasingly candid criticisms over the past few years of prevalent conditions in Egypt and in the rest of the Arab world. At the latest Arab Summit, held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh on 14 January (some 10 days before the outbreak of the revolution) Moussa warned the Arab heads of state of the dire consequences of inequity and economic injustice. These conditions, he said, were “breaking the Arab spirit”.
During the early days of the Egyptian revolution, Moussa put his name to the founding statement of the committee of wise men, set up by a number of prominent Egyptian intellectuals to offer solidarity with the revolutionary youth. On a number of occasions, he walked out of the Arab League Secretariat building, on the western edge of Tahrir, and joined the tends of thousands of demonstrators gathered on the square.
Moussa is to end his term as Arab League Secretary General in April, whereupon he is expected to fully embark on his campaign.