Mohamed Beltagy, secretary of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, called on the political forces to declare their rejection of what he called “violence and bloodshed in the street,” and not to give political legitimacy to sabotage before the party intervenes to resolve the political crisis.
In an interview with Egypt Today, Beltagy said that “the reason behind the recent events is interventions by people who do not seek the interest of Egypt, and want to incite people to stir chaos.” He called on the people of Port Said governorate to “not fall for the [attempts of] advocates of chaos and sabotage.”
The text of the interview:
Al-Masry Al-Youm: How do you find the current situation?
Beltagy: The violence taking place in the street is not related to political differences. The political forces must announce their rejection and condemnation of violence to put an end to the fighting in the street and reach political solutions.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: Does this mean that an announcement by the political forces of rejecting violence is a precondition for the approval of the FJP and the Muslim Brotherhood to find a political solution to the crisis?
Beltagy: Not exactly. However, it is necessary not to give political legitimacy to violence and stop the bloodshed in the street. Reaching political solutions requires the provision of suitable conditions. I think that political solutions would not be effective amid the killing and arson. It is not acceptable to allow the events taking place in the streets to continue.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: How can we stop the violence?
Beltagy: There must be a real national agreement to reject violence, and an intervention to end it by calling for peaceful demonstration. The fact that a number of political forces continue to ignore the violence taking place in the street, and have not issued statements that reject the use of violence against the police and attacks on public facilities is unacceptable.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: But the political forces have demands, such as amending the constitution and electoral law, and changing the incumbent government?
Beltagy: FJP Secretary-General Dr. Mohamed Saad Katatni presented an initiative during the national dialogue called for by the president to amend the parliamentary electoral law. An amendment of the law will be initiated during the upcoming Shura Council meetings. Should there be a consensus on amending the law, the bill will be transferred once again to the parliament instead of referring it to the Constitutional Court.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: Is there any intention to approve the amendment of the controversial articles in the constitution?
Beltagy: In principle, there is no objection by the FJP and Brotherhood to discuss the contentious articles in the constitution. But who will modify these articles now that the Constituent Assembly has been dissolved? According to the new constitution, parliament is authorized to make amendments to the constitution.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: Do you mean that there will not be a constitutional amendment before the formation of the “parliament?”
Beltagy: This is what the constitution says. Therefore, the political forces must work to create the appropriate conditions for holding the parliamentary elections so we can amend the constitution.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: Does this mean that talk about the constitution is postponed until the elections?
Beltagy: Discussion of controversial articles is not postponed. But we call on the political forces to hold a dialogue to discuss and agree on the controversial articles. However, the implementation of what is to be agreed upon will occur after the formation of parliament.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: One of the opposition’s demands is changing the government. Can this demand be met?
Beltagy: Changing the government should happen by request from the authorized person. According to the new constitution, the president has a constitutional right to form the government after the approval of the Legislative Council.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: Thus, you do not expect a cabinet reshuffle to take place soon?
Beltagy: This is the decision of the president. If he sees a need for a cabinet reshuffle, he will do it. Also, it is up to him to decide whether he wants the current cabinet to stay.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: Does the Muslim Brotherhood intend to organize demonstrations in support of the president if the current events continue?
Beltagy: So far, there is no intention to organize demonstrations or rallies in support of the president, to avoid confrontations, especially since many groups are resorting to violence in the street, which is absolutely rejected by the Brotherhood.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: Will you leave it up to the police alone to confront the opposition in the street?
Beltagy: What is happening in the streets has nothing to do with political differences, or how the Brotherhood will deal with people who use violence and burn public facilities. Is there an attempt to drag the Brotherhood into violence? This will never happen, and the Brotherhood wants to find political solutions to the crisis.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: Why did you ask the president and prime minister to impose a state of emergency in Port Said?
Beltagy: The violence in Port Said led to dozens of deaths. This is something unusual and new, and proves the use of excessive violence. An immediate intervention to confront the “thugs” by all legitimate means was necessary.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: How do you find the situation after the people of Port Said, Suez and Ismailia violated the curfew?
Beltagy: The imposition of a curfew aimed to protect the citizens from thugs and stop the violence. Not all residents of the three governorates are with breaking the curfew, but some support imposing it to allow the security forces to confront the thugs who want to sabotage the country and drag it into violence. The recent events were caused by interventions from people who do not seek the interest of the country and want to incite citizens to stir chaos. What is happening in Port Said is unusual of the people of Port Said, who are known for their patriotism and rejection of sabotage and disrupting the country’s affairs. I call on the people of Port Said and all of Egypt to not fall for [the attempts of] advocates of chaos and saboteurs.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: Does the Brotherhood fear a decline in its popularity in the governorates surrounding the Suez Canal?
Beltagy: Not at all. The Brotherhood has confidence in the people of the three governorates. The current wave of anger has nothing to do with the Brotherhood or the FJP. Some people are being used by certain sides to stir up violence and burn Brotherhood and FJP headquarters. However, these do not represent all citizens of the three governorates.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: It has been said that the FJP is considering requesting a postponement of the parliamentary elections out of fear of that the current events would affect the position of the Brotherhood and FJP in the elections?
Beltagy: This issue has not been raised within the FJP. Holding the elections is in the interest of the nation, and would help to complete the formation of state institutions and begin discussions of the laws needed for building a state and discussing controversial articles in the constitution.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: As an a prominent figure in the January 25 Revolution, how did you feel when the Muslim Brotherhood was prohibited from entering Tahrir Square to celebrate the second anniversary of [the revolution]?
Beltagy: The Brotherhood initially had no intention to celebrate the anniversary of the revolution in Tahrir Square. I believe that some media outlets are trying to create a crisis between the political forces. The Brotherhood preferred to celebrate the anniversary of the revolution by organizing marches [that advocate] work and production.