Mubarak-era corruption 'greater than we imagined,' Egypt's Morsi tells Al-Ahram
Ahram Online, Friday 7 Jun 2013
As he approaches end of first year in office, Egypt's President Morsi addresses several key issues – including looming mass rallies against his rule – in exclusive interview with Al-Ahram

In an interview published late Thursday in Egyptian state daily Al-Ahram, President Mohamed Morsi responded to questions on various issues of importance as he approaches the end of his first year in office.

The president said that some of his goals had been achieved while others had not, due to the magnitude of the challenge, saying that the sheer size of Mubarak-era corruption had been "greater than we had imagined."

He said that the greatest achievements in his first year as president had been "taking steps in the right direction and seeing Egyptians feel as if they could do anything."

Morsi went on to talk about some of the problems facing ordinary Egyptians, including frequent power cuts. He attributed the latter problem not to electricity but to the lack of fuel used by power stations, for which he blamed the former regime.

"The previous regime set up a strange system whereby we would export gas cheaply while importing it at three times the price," the president said, referring to gas-export deals Egypt had signed with Israel during the Mubarak era.

Laying further blame on the Mubarak regime, Morsi said that, due to the corruption of the former regime, the foreign currency needed to import fuel wasn't available. "Cutting electricity hurts me," he said, going on to apologise for the situation and vowing that it would soon be resolved.

As for his initial promise to solve urgent problems within his first 100 days as president – including a security vacuum, traffic congestion, fuel shortages, bread scarcities and poor public sanitation – the president said that the bread problem had been resolved and that public sanitation had been largely improved.

As for the lack of security, one of the main grievances currently voiced by Egyptians, the president appeared to acknowledge the problem, saying that restoring security would take considerable time and effort, but that officials were working "day and night" to resolve it.

Morsi also blamed the former regime for "exaggerating the size of Egypt's security problem," while nevertheless admitting to the problem's existence.

The president also addressed the issue of the judiciary, which has recently locked horns with the Muslim Brotherhood-led Shura Council (the upper house of Egypt's parliament, currently endowed with legislative powers) over a judicial authority law that the council wants to pass but which many judges reject.

The president, who himself hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, denied the existence of any rift between Egypt's executive and judicial authorities. "There is complete harmony," said Morsi, adding that judges "enjoy the utmost respect." Any problems involving the judiciary, he added, should be resolved from by the judicial establishment itself.

Addressing the prospect of mass demonstrations on 30 June against his presidency, Morsi insisted that he supported freedom of expression, constructive criticism and the right to establish political parties, but was adamant in his rejection of violence and violations of the law.

While the 30 June protests, organised by the ‘Rebel’ campaign – which is calling for snap presidential elections – Morsi said that he would not allow violence, the destruction of public institutions or any obstruction of citizens’ movement.

Morsi described the notion of early presidential elections as "farcical and illegitimate," saying that, while he viewed the proposition within the bounds of freedom of opinion, he insisted the notion was neither legal nor constitutional.

President Morsi also commented on a recent Egyptian court verdict against 43 NGO workers – many of whom are foreign nationals – which was attacked by US Secretary of State John Kerry as being "incompatible with [Egypt’s] transition to democracy."

Morsi noted that the case had begun before his term as president, but stressed that Egypt's judiciary was "independent and fully able to issue its verdicts objectively." He went on to stress his respect for the court ruling.

Speaking on Egypt's relations with the United States, the president said that Egypt was keen to preserve a good relationship with Washington, with which it hopes to forge stronger relations.

He went on to stress that Egypt agreed with the US on many issues and disagreed with others, including, for example, US policies regarding the Middle East 'peace process.' The president stated that the US "respects the will of the Egyptian people and deals with its leadership as one emanating from democracy."

Asked if the US interfered in Egyptian decision making, he said: "There is no interference of any kind."

Commenting on relations with Israel, a thorny issue due to a controversial peace agreement between Cairo and Tel Aviv, Morsi vowed to respect the treaty, which Israel had feared could be amended – or even annulled – following Mubarak’s ouster.

"Egypt is a large country and we respect agreements, but we will be weary and will not allow any breach" of the treaty, he said.