Ahram Hebdo: How do you respond to those who call for amending the 2014 Constitution?
Amr Moussa: We should not and we cannot talk about amending the constitution before implementing it. I am always surprised by those who call for amending the constitution that was passed in 2014, as according to its articles it is not impeding the work of any state institution. It is the main instrument that enforces order in the country. According to its articles state apparatuses work and we should all unite to fulfill the roadmap that was drawn to restore stability of the state following two revolutions made by Egyptians. For the sake of an institutional state enacting social justice, which is what the constitution stipulates, let us give it a chance so that it can be implemented and translated into laws that will remedy all the negatives we have been suffering from for decades.
How did you come up with the idea of creating an institution that protects the constitution?
The Egyptian Institution to Protect the Constitution came into being as a proposal by member of the 50-Member Committee (tasked with amending the 2012 Constitution) Hoda El-Sada. The idea was adopted by politician Mohamed Abul-Ghar, who was also a member of the 50-Member Committee. Abul-Ghar presented the idea to me as the head of 50-Member Committee and I immediately agreed to be part of it. The institution has held a number of meetings, which included former vice president and economist Zaid Bahaa Eldin, prominent journalist Abdallah El-Senawy, as well as constitutional expert Nour Farahat. We were aiming at uniting our efforts to enforce the articles of the constitution and to protect the gains of the Egyptian people in a constitution that passed with a majority in a popular referendum.
What is the legal framework of the Egyptian Institution to Protect the Constitution?
The Egyptian Institution to Protect the Constitution is a civil institution that is subject to Egyptian Law 84/2002. The institution aims at protecting the principles of the constitution for which the Egyptian people voted in a vast majority, and which is considered to be one of the most important achievements of the political roadmap, and also of the two revolutions of 25 January and 30 June. The institution is not against anyone, yet it aims at defending the rule of law, rights and freedoms as guaranteed by the constitution. According to the law, the institution does not work by politics. It encourages community dialogue on draft laws that are complementary to the constitution. Diplomats, journalists, lawyers, university professors, and trade unionists are among members of the institution.
Did the institution come in response to the demands of some linked to the Egyptian presidency, who have been calling for amending the constitution as it curtails the powers of the president?
The Egyptian Institution to Protect the Constitution is not a reaction to demands for amending the constitution. The institution aims at explaining the principles of the constitution and raising awareness on its articles. This has been and still is and our aim in this non-governmental institution that works in the framework of civil society. While working to form this institution, some called for amending the constitution. Amending the constitution is not out of the question; but it has to happen at the right time. It is not appropriate to speak of amending the constitution before it is implemented. First, we need to issue legislation that complements and implements the constitution. I personally have some ideas concerning amendments of the constitution, but the issue is not on the table for discussion now. It is not appropriate that we discuss that before the issuance of laws suggested by the constitution. Inaugurating our institution took time as different people spent a lot of time negotiating and finally asked me to head the board of trustees of this institution and we started it.
How do you respond to criticism that is being directed to the institution that it interferes in the power of the parliament?
This is totally unacceptable. Parliament is the only authority that has the power to amend and vote on changes that will be made to the constitution. We are just a non-governmental organisation for awareness, and for civil society, so that the constitution doesn’t get removed from its context. We should not control the views of the people who believe in amending the constitution, even if we believe it improper from our point of view. It is necessary that people express their views. But it is also our right to make citizens aware of their constitution.
What do you say to those who believe that the constitution reduced the powers of the president and is impeding his job?
This is also not acceptable. The constitution is neither reducing the powers of the president nor impeding his work. We have chosen a roadmap that starts by writing the constitution, then electing a president and finally electing members of parliament. According to this constitution we have conducted presidential and parliamentary elections. The president have been ruling based on its articles. MPs should issue laws and legislation that implement it.
DId you coordinate with the Egyptian presidency before announcing your institution?
Our institution notified the presidency and the House of Representatives of the inauguration of a new non-governmental institution, in the pursuance of the principal of transparency. We do not work in darkness. I have personally notified parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al. We currently have workshops that include legal experts to explain articles of the constitution, and we might publish articles and books to help Egyptian citizens.
What common violations of the constitution have occurred until now, and how does the institution propose countering them?
It is necessary that the parliament follows this matter. The parliament is the legislative power that has to issue laws that go in line with the constitution. We will also follow the matter and give our comments and reports to authorities.
Are you optimistic about the political scene in Egypt nowadays?
Yes, I am optimistic. We have achieved a lot and Egypt is moving on the right path. We have a constitution, we have an elected president who enjoys popular support and who works diligently and faithfully, and we should all help him. The scene around us, whether regional or international, shows that Egypt is back on track and that it has survived of a lot of dangers and challenges. Yes, we still have huge economic challenges, and face terrorism, but the roadmap is complete and there are a lot of large national projects underway on ground. We sometimes have different opinions, but we must respect this difference.
* This article was originally published by Ahram Hebdo.