Muslim Brotherhood was not ready to rule in Egypt: Morsi's former presidential spokesman

Ahram Online , Monday 1 Aug 2016

Yasser Ali
File photo of Morsi's former spokesperson Yasser Ali. (Photo: Reuters)

Yasser Ali, the former presidential spokesman under Egypt's former president Mohamed Morsi, is speaking up for the first time two years after his release from prison, saying that the Muslim Brotherhood was not ready to assume the presidency, yet dismissing accusations of Morsi's incompetence.

"We were not completely ready in March 2012 to hold such a responsibility, I say this after a year of deep thinking in Aqrab prison," Ali said in an interview with Al-Jazeera network.

"We were not ready for issues such as regional relations, yet we cannot accuse Morsi of incompetence."

Ali, who served as a presidential spokesperson from July 2012 till February 2013, was imprisoned for almost one year in December 2013 after he was convicted of aiding former prime minister Hesham Qandeel to flee prosecution on criminal charges.

Morsi was ousted on 3 July 2013 by the military following mass protests against his rule on 30 June 2013, one year after he came to power.

"Morsi tried to sail the ship as best he could with the tools he had at hand… [but] it cannot be denied that mistakes would naturally take place," said Ali, who had worked closely with Morsi before his appointment as the Islamist leader's presidential campaign coordinator in the 2012 election.

Although he acknowledges that large segments of Egyptian society held grievances against the Islamists' way of governing for various reasons, Ali believes that the events of 30 June were instigated by other factors.

"What happened on 3 July was the result of regional crises more so than internal economic and political issues," he said, explaining that it was caused by Morsi's stance on Egyptian-Israeli relations, his support for the Syrian revolution.

Ali claimed that Morsi was warned by an Arab diplomat that his insistence on supporting the Syrian revolution and his vision that the mediation of the quartet – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt – was a solution for the crisis in Syria was not supported by some regional parties who had another vision for the region.  

Ali says Morsi was concerned about the possibility of being ousted, though he insists the Islamist leader was not to blame for not avoiding the events that led to his ouster.

On the relationship between civilians and the military in Egyptian society, Ali says that Morsi believed from his first day that a re-engineering of civil-army relations was essential.

"There was great sensitivity in the relationship between the military and the presidency, especially with the discharging of [the head Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)] Hussein Tantawi and [former army chief-of-staff] Sami Anan," Ali said.

Tantawi and Anan were ordered to retire in August 2012 by Morsi. On the same day, Morsi unilaterally abrogated the SCAF's controversial 18 June 2012 constitutional addendum, which had served to curtail the president's powers.

Hence, Ali said, this decision by Morsi curtailed the possibility of a "coup attempt" at the time and eased people's concerns.

When asked if Morsi took the Ittihadiya violent protests of 2012 as a warning, Ali said that although Morsi's government had to contend with considerable political and social pressure, they believed that the reengineering of civil-military relations would resolve any issue.

In December 2012, clashes erupted between Morsi supporters and opponents after he issued a constitutional amendment in late November 2012 stipulating that his decisions were not subject to court oversight.

During these clashes, Morsi supporters attacked and violently dispersed an anti-Morsi sit-in in front of the Ittihadiya Presidential Palace.

The Muslim Brotherhood was officially designated a terrorist organisation by the government in December 2013 following several deadly attacks on security personnel blamed on supporters of the ousted president.

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