'Morsi Has Gone Against The Will of the People'

Egyptian novelist Alaa Al-Aswany discusses the course of the Egyptian revolution and the need to halt the "dictatorial constitutional declaration."

al-monitor Prominent Egyptian writer Alaa al-Aswany walks with protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Nov. 27, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih.

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Nov 28, 2012

1. Why do you oppose the constitutional declaration issued by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi?

Because it gives the president semi-divine powers, through which he can dissolve the laws and do whatever he wants without any supervision or accountability.

Through this declaration, President Morsi has gone against the will of the people who brought him to power. He has turned into a dictator, and every dictator is certainly an enemy of the revolution, which essentially happened for the sake of establishing a state ruled by law.

2. Why would you not allow President Morsi temporary absolute powers for a few months?

There are no temporary dictators. All dictators have claimed to be obliged to take temporary extraordinary measures, and then seized power forever. Here, let’s recall how the Free Officers, in 1952, pledged to return to their barracks after six months, but remained in power for many years. Any ruler who is allowed to disregard the law for a single day will turn into an eternal dictator.

3. Could President Morsi be obliged to take extraordinary measures in order to fight the old order and protect the revolution?

Freedom, the rule of law and respect for the will of the people are principles and human goals in and of themselves. Any achievement that comes through tyranny is unacceptable. Also, all totalitarian regimes throughout history have eventually led to failure and disaster. We are suffering from the collapse of life in all areas as a result of the tyranny of former President Hosni Mubarak, so we cannot accept the tyranny of Morsi.

President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood did not fight the old regime, but colluded with it to their advantage at the expense of the revolution. Who mobilized the people to approve [Hosni] Mubarak’s amendments to the 1971 Constitution? Who allied with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), was opposed to making the constitution the first priority, and insisted that the elections be held first so that the Islamists could write the constitution as they like?

Who accused the rebels of thuggery and mocked the girls who were violated by soldiers during the cabinet massacre [session]? Who described those who demanded that the constitution be drafted before the elections as demons, and described the criminal members of SCAF as darlings?

The Muslim Brotherhood colluded and struck deals with the military at the expense of the blood of the martyrs. What did President Morsi do during five months of his term? He hired Interior Minister Ahmad Gamal al-Din, who is responsible for the Mohammed Mahmoud Street massacre, which resulted in the death of 70 martyrs.

President Morsi provided a safe exit for [former SCAF Chairman] Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi and [former Chief of Staff] Lt. Gen. Sami Anan, who are responsible — at least politically — for all of the massacres that claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent people.

President Morsi kept the state security apparatus, which is responsible for disregarding the lives of millions of Egyptians. Morsi also hired Mubarak’s ministers and businessmen, who robbed the Egyptian people and amassed enormous fortunes at the expense of the poor.

If President Morsi wanted to achieve the goals of the revolution, he would have done so. But in reality, he works for the benefit of the Muslim Brotherhood, not the revolution. President Morsi has made many promises, but never fulfilled any. Therefore, we have no reason to believe him when he claims that he will be a dictator for a short period of time. Since he has never been honest in the past, he will certainly not be honest this time.

4. Why did President Morsi make the constitutional declaration?

President Morsi follows the instructions of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Office, which realized that it was in the interest of the group to appease the old regime rather than fight against it. The Muslim Brotherhood wanted to keep the state apparatuses as they were during the days of Mubarak, on condition that their loyalty be to the Brotherhood instead of SCAF and Mubarak.

As a result, President Morsi kept the state security apparatus and appointed the major general who was in charge of issues related to the Brotherhood as head of security. President Morsi also kept the Ministry of Information, and appointed a Brotherhood director as head of the ministry to run the media on behalf of the Brotherhood.

According to the calculations of the Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammad Badie, striking a deal with the old regime would enable the Muslim Brotherhood to retain power forever. The Brotherhood guide later discovered that the old regime was conspiring against the Brotherhood. He discovered that their apparatuses were spreading chaos in order to get rid of President Morsi. Thus, it was necessary for the Brotherhood guide to take a preemptive step to protect the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president. Consequently, Morsi made the constitutional declaration to disable the law and retain power as he pleases.

There is also the Constituent Assembly [tasked with drafting the constitution], which the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) will annul for the second time. This will lead to the formation of a balanced committee that will write a new constitution in Egypt. On the other hand, the Brotherhood guide wants to retain the current Constituent Assembly in order to write a constitution that would enable the Brotherhood to retain power forever. This authoritative constitutional declaration comes in the context of a power struggle between the Brotherhood and the old regime. In my opinion, the revolution has nothing to do with this conflict. Our main goal is to prevent the creation of a new dictator.

5. How would the president get out of this quandary?

The only solution is for the president to back away from the constitutional declaration and go back to respecting the law. If the SCC invalidates the Shura Council and the Constituent Assembly, the head of state must respect the law and implement the judicial rulings immediately. If President Morsi insists on the dictatorial constitutional declaration, he will have lost his legitimacy. A president — even an elected one — who infringes on the law will no longer be legitimate.

6. Who is responsible for the ascent of the Muslim Brotherhood to power? Are they not those revolutionaries who supported Morsi against Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shafiq?

I personally did not vote for Morsi. In an article published in Al-Masry Al-Youm, I called for boycotting the elections. But at the same time, I fully stand with the revolutionaries who elected Morsi. Those wanted to protect the revolution and prevent the return of the old regime represented by Ahmad Shafiq, Mubarak’s student and faithful man.

The choice was between the Brotherhood and the old regime. So the revolutionaries chose the Brotherhood, despite knowing that they are opportunists. However, it was the only choice available to protect the revolution. President Morsi won through the votes of Egyptians who do not belong to the Brotherhood and generally do not like them. But they elected Morsi to overthrow Shafiq.

I do not believe that the revolutionaries’ support for Morsi against Shafiq requires an apology at all. This was the only way to prevent the return of the Mubarak regime. In my opinion, those who should apologize are the revolutionary presidential candidates who refused to agree on a single candidate to represent the revolution, thus causing the dispersion of revolutionary votes. As a result, they all failed in the first round of elections, and we were faced with the miserable choice between the Brotherhood candidate and the counter-revolution candidate.

With all due respect for their opinion, those who still see Shafiq as an appropriate president for Egypt do not recognize the Egyptian revolution or are not very concerned with it. It’s unreasonable that a revolution was launched against the regime of Mubarak, and we later elect a main figure of the same regime against which the revolution was launched.

7. Twelve million Egyptians voted for Shafiq. Do all of these people not recognize the revolution?

The number of those who do not recognize the revolution is much higher than that. The Egyptian revolution was undertaken by 20 million Egyptians. If we add to them 20 million sympathizers, we would find that those who believe in the revolution are less than half of the Egyptian people.

This is the case with all revolutions. It only takes 10% of the people to start a revolution. In Egypt it was 20%, but we have to understand that 40 million Egyptians were surprised by the revolution and did not expect it. Many of them did not understand the revolution or need it, and are not willing to make sacrifices for it.

Accordingly, I think that those who voted for Shafiq do not care about the revolution. I cannot imagine anyone who took part in the revolution electing another Mubarak. I exclude the Copts from this rule because they are a minority that has been terrorized — whether deliberately or out of ignorance — by political Islam groups.

Out of fear for their lives and their human rights, it was normal for them to elect anyone who would prevent the Brotherhood from attaining power. Shafiq was not the first choice of most of the Copts I know. They voted for a revolutionary candidate in the first round. When the choice became between the Brotherhood and the old regime, they chose the old regime. This is because they are understandably in a state of fear. This fear can only be felt by those who live as a religious minority in a repressive country suffering from religious extremism, like Egypt.

8. And now what?

All Egyptians must struggle to stop the dictatorial constitutional declaration. We must use all means of pressure until President Morsi abandons tyranny. However, we must completely refrain from violence because it will lead us to disaster. This great revolution must remain peaceful; we must approach this complicated situation with clarity.

There are two kinds of Egyptian who oppose the constitutional declaration: revolutionaries and remnants of the Mubarak regime. They make the same statements and take the same positions, but for completely different purposes.

The revolutionaries want to abolish the constitutional declaration in order to build the state of law for which the revolution was launched. The remnants of the old regime want to destroy everything in Egypt and create a state of terror and lawlessness, as a prelude to military intervention and the return of the old regime.

9. The remnants are Egyptian citizens, so why do we deny them political participation?

I do not call for denying them political participation. But I am sure that they are enemies of the revolution, and they are now working to restore the Mubarak regime to power. The fact that they are Egyptians does not exempt them from political accountability. Those who tortured and killed innocent people, injured their eyes and violated their wives in front of them, all of those are Egyptians. So should we forget their crimes?

10. Has the Egyptian revolution failed?

A revolution is essentially a human change that leads to political results. A revolution means giving priority to interests over meaning. A revolution means that a group of people — at a certain moment in time — become willing to die for dignity and freedom. This noble behavior is rare, which explains why real revolutions are few throughout human history. Human change is the real achievement of a revolution. The Egyptians have broken the barrier of fear and will never go back. The political achievements of the revolution have been delayed and stalled as a result of the complicity of the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, and the fragmentation of the revolutionary forces.

Revolutions usually take many years to establish a democratic state. We overthrew Mubarak in less than three weeks. If we compare this achievement to other historical revolutions, we should feel proud of our revolution. The revolution will continue until it is victorious and achieves its goals, God willing.

Democracy is the solution.

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