Recently, protests, violent acts and demonstrations against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have been prominent. The opposition has leveled accusations at the government, claiming that it is attempting to “Brotherhoodize” the state and adopting further repressive measures. There have also been allegations that Morsi’s decisions are dominated by the Brotherhood’s Guidance office.
As violence and protests continue — threatening the country with complete chaos — Gamal Heshmat, a leading figure in the Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party and a member of the Shura Council, gave an interview to Azzaman, expressing his views regarding current developments.
Azzaman: Do you believe that loose security and calls to topple Morsi are incited by foreign powers that aim to overthrow not only Morsi, but the state as well?
Heshmat: I believe that the insurgent groups and their schedule of attacks in many provinces indicate a premeditated plan to inflict chaos. When re-holding elections and toppling Morsi are provided as conditions, even though the president is supported by a majority, it is then a real call for chaos.
Azzaman: Leaked informations states that Morsi has recordings that implicate leading figures in the National Salvation Front (NSF) of planning to incite chaos and topple the regime, why does Morsi not reveal this plan to the public?
Heshmat: I believe that the truth will be revealed in time. We are going through adversity, but revealing [these recordings] and further confrontation — if not well planned — will deepen the rifts.
Azzaman: The leadership of the NSF accused Morsi of not keeping his promises from the last dialogue sessions; it therefore refused to participate in the next sessions. What is your assessment of this?
Heshmat: In fact, some matters were agreed upon without poring over them, such as re-forming the Constituent Assembly to find balance, which is not within the remit of the president. Morsi kept his word on assigning a Copt and a female deputy. Some were not present when the amendments to the electoral law were made. Some articles were annulled with unanimous consent and did not stir any objections, since they were in favor of minorities, such as canceling the backup list. In all cases, dialogue is the key to achieving a real settlement.
Azzaman: How do you assess the NSF’s conditions for taking part in parliamentary elections?
Heshmat: The conditions are impossible to meet and almost illogical. It really perplexes me how they talk about democracy and freedom when they want to violate the people’s will and votes. The calls to annul the constitution on which the people agreed, and hold early presidential elections do not meet the lowest standards of democracy that they talk about. The demands made by the NSF show its intention to incite riots against the president.
Azzaman: Do you believe that the army serving as a safety net to the dialogue will contribute to the dialogue’s success?
Heshmat: The Egyptian army currently has other things to do than interfere with politics.
Azzaman: How do view the criticisms that the current regime is attempting to “Brotherhoodize” the state?
Heshmat: These accusations are meant to frighten and serve as a form of blackmail. The people are holding the Muslim Brotherhood accountable for the bad performance of the state agencies, and call from them to be in the position of responsibility so that they can hold them responsible when the time comes.
Azzaman: How do you asses the criticisms leveled against the performance of the government and the accusations of them not having enough expertise to face the current problems?
Heshmat: There is still a monotony characterizing the performance of the government. There is neither creativity nor audacity in facing serious problems. These problems require bold decisions and meticulous follow-up. [The government] must be able to change its policies and eradicate corrupt figures in a way that gives Egyptians real hope.
Azzaman: Do you think that the president’s advisers are substandard?
Heshmat: Some were substandard; the others were not loyal and didn’t stay by the president’s side until the last moment.
Azzaman: The president has reversed some of his decisions, does this mean that these decisions are overviewed by the Brotherhood’s Guidance office?
Heshmat: The president reversed these decisions because he is not totalitarian. He did so to unify the country. The president took a step back so he could leap forward again. Review his achievements over the course of the last seven months on the official Facebook page of the presidency, and you will note that he did achieve the goals of the revolution that were demanded by all. There are those who have criticized some of Morsi’s actions just for blackmail purposes, such as when he sidelined the army, replaced the public prosecutor, punished the killers of revolutionaries, preserved the Constituent Assembly and Shura council, issued the constitution and called for a referendum.
Azzaman: Does the failure of the Ministry of Interior to protect the offices and facilities of the Muslim Brotherhood mean that figures of the former regime are still controlling this agency and that restructuring is needed?
Heshmat: Some hate the revolution and the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the seat of power and consider their jobs to be a four-year vacation. Restructuring is a revolutionist demand that should be implemented gradually, since goals and doctrines have changed following the revolution.
Azzaman: Does this apply as well to media institutions and private TV channels?
Heshmat: The National Media Council is entitled to structure media activities and hold people accountable without any interference. The judicial system settles disputes over the performance of these channels.
Azzaman: What are your views about the chances of the Muslim Brotherhood winning the next parliamentary elections, since many believe that the group’s popularity has decreased?
Heshmat: This supposed decrease in popularity was proven false; however, at the end of the day, the Brotherhood’s platform and performance decides whether or not their popularity increases or decreases.
Azzaman: Do you believe that the Salafist movements will be the main competitors of the Muslim Brotherhood, especially after the formation of the Homeland Party [which split from the Salafist Al-Nour Party]?
Heshmat: It is indeed a significant achievement to have Islamic parties taking part in the elections; the competition will be heated and the chances of winning will decrease.
Azzaman: In your opinion, what are the motives that catalyzed the Al-Nour party to turn against the Brotherhood?
Heshmat: They did not turn against them, it was a mere conflict in perspectives. They saw a chance to prove themselves, given that the elections — which need planning and clear vision — are imminent. There is no doubt that differences in experience will be influential.
Azzaman: Following the army’s warnings to the political powers, do you think a military coup is looming?
Heshmat: There is no chance of a military coup happening, because it would lead Egypt into a state of chaos. From a national perspective, however, it was necessary [for the army] to warn against the disorder that took place in the streets.
Azzaman: How accurate are the claims that members of Hamas were protecting Morsi?
Heshmat: These claims are unfounded and tendentious, uttered by psychopaths and have no logical foundation.
Azzaman: Amid the financial crisis, do you think Egypt is on the verge of bankruptcy and an outbreak of a new “Revolution of the Hungry”?
Heshmat: Egypt will not go bankrupt if God almighty wills it; all it needs is a wise, strong management to bring it out of the economic crisis.
Azzaman: Is there any truth to reports of rapprochement between Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, and claims that the former attempted to help the Brotherhood, given their experience in dealing with protesters?
Heshmat: This claim emanates from the constant distrust in every step taken to enhance foreign relations, wield the right to make critical decisions without interference, and create relations on the basis of independence, without allowing any interference in internal affairs, while preserving the joint interests of both countries. We do not need fruitless experiences; Egypt treats its citizens in a civilized way that befits the revolution of Jan. 25.
Azzaman: According to you, what are the best solutions to overcome the crisis?
Heshmat: [The best solutions are] those put forth by the president in his last speech, in which he asked prominent political figures to hold a dialogue. All of the parties were asked, given the current circumstances, to prove their allegiance to the country. I call on the popular parties to stick with the people, fight for their right to choose, and work hard to alternate power in a peaceful way through elections. Dialogue unifies the nation, and takes it away from the conflict over power.