Amr Moussa: President and citizens are constitution-bound

Dina Ezzat , Sunday 16 Mar 2014

Amr Moussa offers a cautiously optimistic vision of El-Sisi’s potential presidency, affirming the Muslim Brotherhood would not be excluded on political grounds

Former foreign minister and presidential candidate Amr Moussa
Former foreign minister and presidential candidate Amr Moussa speaks during an interview with Reuters in Cairo March 11, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

In a two-hour interview with the 360 talk show, broadcast Saturday evening on the satellite channel Al-Kahera Walnass, Amr Moussa, politician and veteran diplomat, spoke about the road to and beyond Egypt's upcoming presidential elections.

Moussa, a former presidential runner who served consecutively as foreign minister and Arab League secretary general, recently headed the Committee of 50 that all but fully reworked the constitution drafted under the one year rule of the Muslim Brotherhood to make it compatible with the post-Brotherhood order, with special transitional clauses that appear designed to accommodate the political plans of army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

Since the constitution was redrawn and passed, Moussa, who has ruled out joining the presidential race, has been closely associated with El-Sisi — “the set-to-be president,” as he has been dubbed in many commentaries.

“El-Sisi will firmly run for president,” Moussa reiterated late Saturday evening while speculation was high about the reasons for the delay of El-Sisi resigning from the military.

When it comes to the plans of El-Sisi, the statement of Moussa is perhaps the most authorative on record, given the regular consultations underway between the field marshal and the diplomat, denoting a good chemistry between them and perhaps — though no plan is apparent yet — their future cooperation.

“I offer my advice when solicited and I am not doing so to get any post; nor has there been any discussion of the matter,” Moussa told 360 anchor Ossama Kamal.

True as this is, corroborated by the account of some independent sources that spoke to Ahram Online, Moussa was on 360 arguing two things: the case for El-Sisi as president, and cautious remarks on the potential for a successful presidency of the chief of the army.

The rationale of Moussa for his “support and planned vote for El-Sisi” is perhaps that of many others: El-Sisi is the man who saved the day when Muslim Brotherhood rule had failed to keep open functional communication channels with its opposition, amid wide public dismay at “the shocking setback” of living standards, economy, and potential for the future.

The cautious positive note for the future is where the senior statesman detailed the potential path ahead on both the home and foreign fronts.

Head-on Moussa answered the key question: the Muslim Brotherhood will not be excluded from public life.

“We cannot deal with people on political belief; this is neither the text nor the spirit of the constitution that we recently adopted. All citizens are equally entitled to join the public sphere and political life, provided that they are not facing any legal charges,” Moussa said in no uncertain terms.

According to Moussa’s analysis, it is only wise to re-engage the Muslim Brotherhood politically, “but firmly within the rules of law and under no other condition." “There are two paths for the Muslim Brotherhood to take. The right path, I think, is the constitution-bound path whereby they could join elections and participate in the public sphere … the other one is that of violence which is not the right path. We need to help them to take the right path,” he said while asserting the need for firm state action against terror.

Engagement, rather than exclusion, was also prescribed by Moussa with regards to current foreign policy adversaries: Turkey, Qatar and Ethiopia.

“There will have to be a political and legal settlement for the issue of the Renaissance Dam … under an elected president, a new government and an elected parliament,” Moussa said.

Offering a strong contrast to prevailing impulsive calls for a political — some even suggest military — attack on Ethiopia, Moussa spoke softly and firmly of “resorting to the right expertise to settle the matter in a way that would observe the development demands of Ethiopia, a brotherly neighbouring African country, but that would also maintain Egypt’s water rights.”

For Moussa the matter is not one of political confrontation, but rather political and technical handling, and above all of water management — not just in terms of access, but also usage.

Cooling down an otherwise heated discourse was also Moussa’s tactic in addressing relations with Turkey and Qatar, each of which have fallen out with Cairo since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013 and have since issued antagonising official statements on Egypt.

The path forward should be based on handling relations between the two states and the two peoples, and not between two political parties (as in the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, and Turkey's Justice and Development Party) or between particular figures (the Islamists of Egypt and those of — or residing in — Qatar).

Steering away from the path of confrontation and tension was also what Moussa prescribed for relations with the US, amid scepticism in Washington on the ouster of Morsi. Re-launching a joint-interests based relationship with proper tension management is both possible and purposeful, Moussa insisted.

Throughout the two-hour interview, Moussa carefully cushioned every argument he made, essentially in favour of El-Sisi and the positive prospects of his presidency, with references to the constitution.

He even based his argument in favour of the otherwise controversial immunity to appeal accorded to the decisions of the Presidential Elections Committee that will oversee the upcoming presidential poll strictly on the constitutional rationale offered to Interim President Adly Mansour by the High Constitutional Court.

Moussa firmly reminded his audience that his point of departure is the constitution that the Committe of 50 produced — notwithstanding criticism on several articles that give the military and their chief special status.

All said and done, Moussa — who shrugged speculation he is heading El-Sisi’s presidential campaign, insisting he is only offering advice when solicited — appeared most keen to send a message of reassurance. He offered assurances to a cautious public speculating about the much anticipated candidacy of El-Sisi; to apprehensive Muslim Brotherhood cadres who are faced with mixed messages of anger and accommodation; and to regional and international players who are carefully watching developments in Egypt.

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