Return to Transcripts main page


Egyptian Elections

Aired June 14, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. There have been fast breaking political developments in Egypt tonight ahead of this weekend's final round of the presidential elections there.

The Muslim Brotherhood candidate for the presidency, Mohammed Morsi, has announced that he will remain in the race because a short while ago it was unclear whether he would pull out of this week's election because Egypt's highest court made up of judges appointed by Hosni Mubarak disbanded the Brotherhood-dominated parliament earlier today.

An angry crowd protested the dissolution of the parliament. They had gathered outside that court, and it leaves the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, otherwise known as SCAF, in full legislative authority until new parliamentary elections can be held. It has been in control of Egypt since the revolution. To get the very latest, we're going now to CNN's senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, in Cairo.

Ben, everybody wants to -- go ahead.


AMANPOUR: Tell me what's going on, because first of all, how has the street reacted to this, and what does it mean ahead of these crucial elections?

WEDEMAN: Certainly the street, surprisingly, has not responded with this sort of anger one would have expected. We were outside the constitutional court when the ruling came down, and there was anger, but it really didn't transfer too to Tahrir Square. That may be because people are simply exhausted by the rate, the pace of politics over the last year and a half.

Now what's also significant at this point is that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has legislative power, executive power, and they also are going to name the 100 people who will make up the constituents' assembly, which will be charged with writing the constitution. So really they now have almost complete control of politics in this country.

In addition to that, yesterday, the justice ministry gave the military, specifically military police and military intelligence, police rights and privileges and duties. So now the military can arrest civilians, detain them and interrogate them as if they were normal police. So this is leading many people, not just the Muslim Brotherhood, but also members of civil society to say this is essentially a soft military coup, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Ben, let's a take a few of those issues. What you were describing just then was essentially a reimposition, perhaps under another name, of the state of emergency that existed under President Mubarak. Is that right?

WEDEMAN: Almost. I mean there's certain powers that are not included in this ministry of justice decision. But by and large, it does represent an attempt to reimpose martial law without actually using the name.

Now it's widely believed it was this power was provided to the military to prevent the kind of unrest people were expecting in the wake of today's constitutional court decision. But for one reason or another, perhaps because it's so hot, perhaps it's because people are simply so exhausted by the politics, we have not seen the street explode as we've seen so many times in the last year and a half.

AMANPOUR: Well, let's hope that it stays that way. But in the meantime, why did the highest court invalidate the parliament? Of course, the rest of the world and, indeed, Egyptians thought that they had had the first freest elections ever. Why was it invalidated?

WEDEMAN: Well, it really goes back to the very complicated and archaic rules that apply to the Egyptian parliament. According to the parliament, there should be two-thirds of the seats are allocated to parties, political parties, and one-third of the seats is allocated to individuals running independently.

But as it turned out, most of those individuals were in some way or another affiliated with the political parties. And it's not just the Muslim Brotherhood. That includes the Sulifsnor (ph) Party and others, and therefore they said, look, that's the case. If they weren't really independent, then the whole process, the whole parliament is invalid.

AMANPOUR: All right. And let's go to -- let's go to the sort of central piece in this puzzle. This is right on the eve of the presidential election. But from what we can gather, we know that the two runoff candidates are going to run. The election will be held on schedule. Is that right?

WEDEMAN: That is correct. There was some doubt earlier today, whether the Muslim Brotherhood, in protest over this decision, in protest over the dissolution of parliament, that they would boycott the election, they would pull out.

And in fact, I spoke to one senior member of Mohammed Morsi's campaign, who told me all options are now on the table, including pulling out of the race. But just a few minutes ago, we saw Mohammed Morsi on Egyptian TV, saying that he will go ahead and pursue the presidency. In fact, it's hard to say at this point what his chances are. He did, in fact, get more votes in the first round than Ahmed Shafiq.

And there may be a certain amount of sympathy votes for the Muslim Brotherhood, given that they've seen their power in parliament absolutely evaporate. On the other hand, there are many Egyptians who are rubbing their hands with satisfaction because they wanted to see the Muslim Brotherhood put in its place. And certainly it does appear today that that's exactly what happened, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Ben Wedeman, thank you very much.

And just to take that last part of what Ben said, what many people are feeling about what's just happened to the Muslim Brotherhood's power, we're going to turn to Amr Moussa, who was a presidential candidate in Egypt's first round of elections. He was the former head of the Arab League and was formerly foreign minister of Egypt under President Hosni Mubarak. He joins me now by phone from Cairo.

Mr. Moussa, thank you so much for joining me. And let me --

AMR MOUSSA, FMR. HEAD OF ARAB LEAGUE: Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Let me pick up where Ben left off. You know, many people, including yourself, when we spoke a few weeks ago, were very concerned that the Muslim Brotherhood's power would have been practically total, in control of parliament and possibly winning the election as well, the presidential election.

Is this an attempt by the highest court or by the military to stop that in its tracks?

MOUSSA: I don't think so. I don't forget that we have presidential elections only a couple of days from now and the forces will be very clear in favor of whoever the electorate will decide. The fundamentally elections produced a majority but a big majority for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The invalidation happened on the basis of certain legal points, certain (inaudible), as Ben was explaining correctly, and therefore it was not a political move or a decision (inaudible). It is a legal matter that has been refereed to the tribunals by individuals and by other parties.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Moussa, you say it's not a political move, but the timing certainly looks like it's a political move. And people are really sort of scratching their heads to figure out if this has been under investigation, this technicality by the tribunal, for so many months, since the parliament elections, why on Earth would the decision come on the eve of the elections? It does look political.

MOUSSA: Yes, but (inaudible) was set quite some time ago. So a month or more, but a month ago, everybody knew that on that date, on the 14th, that there would be a co-decision (ph) on that point.


MOUSSA: The -- but it has nothing to do with that, because the presidential elections will go on anyway, as scheduled.

AMANPOUR: All right. Well, let's talk about the other issues that were -- that were adjudicated. One, obviously, as we know, they decided to allow Ahmad Shafiq to continue to run. There was a doubt as to what they might say about that, because he was an official in the previous government. So the runoff will continue as planned.

What about the constitutional panel, the constitutional committee to write the constitution? That has also been disbanded, but we hear it's going to be reappointed. Is that a cause for any worry? Is it reappointed by the military? Should it have been appointed by the parliament?

MOUSSA: Well, the constitutional committee was appointed by the parliament in the first place, but it was not (inaudible) information membership, the criteria, all were not welcomed by the public opinion, which necessitated a change in the information. And it happened only a couple of days back. But also it was unsatisfactory for many parties and for (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: Why was it? Why was it so unsatisfactory? What were the key gripes (ph)?

MOUSSA: Before a (inaudible) one party, which is the justice (inaudible) freedom party, therefore the -- all other parties and other political sources (ph) can (inaudible) a discussion would not be fair, would not be (inaudible), but would not produce a consensus (inaudible).

Many (inaudible) many personalities withdrew with the advent (ph) the last couple of days from the membership of this. So it was confirmation (ph) in both instances.


MOUSSA: I understand that they have (inaudible) an announcement by the staff (inaudible) that the staff will act on this matter in the next couple of days. Again, it takes about it (ph). So there will be (inaudible) a consecution (ph) of that (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: Right. You mentioned the Freedom of Justice Party, which obviously is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, and you mentioned that people were very concerned that the constitution would be heavily dominated by that faction. Do you think --


MOUSSA: (Inaudible) --

AMANPOUR: Mr. Moussa, can you still hear me?

MOUSSA: OK, (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: Can you still hear me?

MOUSSA: (Inaudible). I do hear you. (Inaudible).

AMANPOUR: Yes. OK. So we were just talking about the constitution. In any event, though, isn't this a little bit of a strange situation? I've heard it described as putting the cart before the horse, the fact that there is a presidential election with none of his powers enumerated by the constitution, no constitution written, and a president being elected. How is that going to be resolved very satisfactorily?

MOUSSA: In fact, that is not my view. My point of view is that the current constitutional declaration is enough to give the president the powers he needs. The -- a period of four years, the right of two terms, the presidential powers, the separation of forces, the (inaudible) justice, of (inaudible), judiciary, et cetera.

So I don't think this is a very important point. I believe that the president, once elected, knows exactly the powers he would use. The constitution or declaration is quite enough for the time being. If the need arises, then we'll (inaudible) some amendments. So (inaudible), this is not a critical point concerning the presidential elections.

AMANPOUR: All right. Of course, many people do differ on that point, and many people have also suggested that what happened today was a bit of a soft coup. Do you think it is a power grab by the military, including the reimplementation of sort of emergency light, if you like, incredible powers of arrest and detention to the military police?

MOUSSA: Well, the election of the president, the president will be responsible for so many things and we have to see what action the president -- new president will take concerning the transfer of power, the -- and the other issues that you have mentioned. It will be his responsibility now to take up these matters and talk with staff about it and about the -- his rights and his authorities.

AMANPOUR: And as Ben mentioned, there has been no dramatic protests or instability in the streets after this announcement. Are you surprised that the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, agreed to continue in the presidential elections?

MOUSSA: No, I believe it is wise, (inaudible) wise (inaudible) continue and (inaudible) the elections takes place as agreed. This is very important, better than just demonstrations and tension. I believe this is very wise that both candidates continue and run on the 16th and 17th of this month.

AMANPOUR: Amr Moussa, thank you very much indeed for joining me, and we will keep our eye on what's going on.

And more of our coverage of Egypt's political drama when we return.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program, and we continue to cover some of the confusion that has erupted in Egypt's democracy in the wake of the high court rulings there today. I turn now to Khaled Fahmy, political analyst and historian, and chair of the history department at the American University in Cairo.

Welcome to our program, Mr. Fahmy. How are you?


AMANPOUR: Good. When you heard our previous two guests, the former presidential candidate, who basically did not agree that this was any kind of soft coup, but I have heard that coming from other people. How do you define what the highest court did today?

FAHMY: No, I actually think it is a legal coup, a legal coup in the sense that it's not legitimate, obviously, but it's a coup through courts, through judges, through the law. This is a coup that reflects the tug-of- war between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. This has been in the offing for not only months, but years and years.

And we were thinking that this -- the presidential elections and (inaudible) prior to that, the parliamentary elections will find some kind of a modus vivendi (ph) between these two power blocs. But the events of today and indeed the past few weeks have shown very clearly that determination by SCAF, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to oust the Muslim Brotherhood altogether and to deny it serious victories that could have won legitimately in the ballot boxes, and today is a combination of that struggle.

AMANPOUR: On the other hand, what's obviously going to happen is Mr. Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party candidate, is going to run the two runoff candidates will be the same. Do you think that what has happened will galvanize people behind Morsi or behind Ahmed Shafiq?

FAHMY: I think the street (ph) has clicked, definitely, and Ahmed Shafiq made a very powerful speech today. He tried to call many people, not me myself, personally I wasn't, but there is a lot of sympathy, I think, now for the Muslim Brotherhood. There's a lot of fear of what Shafiq is capable of doing.

And because things now have become so clear and the gloves are off, people see what the military is intent on doing. Yesterday's ruling by the minister of justice, giving the military police these excessive rights, this is a serious militarization of Egyptian society that we made a revolution against.

The repeated acquittal verdicts for police officers who have been accused of murdering the hundreds of people in Tahrir and elsewhere last year in the days of the revolution, this is no accident. We have today the 18th non-guilty verdicts for police officers. And today's rulings are coming at the culmination of this. So whether people will go behind Morsi or Shafiq is yet to -- it's too early to know, despite everything.

People are very confused, as I'm sure you know.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask a couple of questions about that. Clearly there has been this sort of tug-of-war between the military and between the Muslim Brotherhood. And when I was asking Mr. Morsi in our interview a few weeks ago, he wouldn't directly confront the military.

And there seemed to be certainly by what he wasn't saying an attempt to find a modus vivendi with the military. And at the same time, this is not the first time, for instance, of a constituent -- the constitutional committee has been disbanded. People didn't want it to operate under what they thought was an unfair domination by Islamists.

FAHMY: Yes. There's definitely a very serious blunder on the part of Islamists in the sense of how they managed to run their affairs in parliament, how they were very haughty and cocky, if I may say so, in the way they dealt with other -- with the liberal forces, and how they didn't understand how deep the so-called deep state is, the security forces, the intelligence services, the very deeply entrenched interests of the military and of not understanding how difficult it will be -- and the lack of leadership.

At the same time, the military also is, as I said earlier, casting their gloves off and making what I consider to be a serious historical blunder. I am a historian and I know that in the United States, in 2000 -- in the September 11th attacks, this is a result of casting out Islamists from the political sphere. You only get radicalism and violence.

The only way you can defuse this is by incorporating the Islamists into the political sphere. I am afraid that Egypt may interact in the way of Algeria back in 1991, when Islamists there won the elections, but the military came and suspended the results of the election.

AMANPOUR: Well, Mr. Fahmy --

FAHMY: So this is a serious historical blunder, in my mind.

AMANPOUR: Well, you paint a very scary picture. All of us remember what happened in Algeria. But the question is then, what if Mr. Morsi wins the election? Does your scenario hold? Or not?

FAHMY: Well, if Mr. Morsi wins the elections, we have a very confusing situation. He wins the elections, whoever wins the elections, he will win it without a constitution and without a parliament and, in a sense, in violation of the already existing constitutional declaration, because they're already -- existing constitutional declaration says that we have to have parliamentary elections before presidential elections. And that president swear the oath of his office in front of parliament.

So the very technical but also important transitional period of what will this president be, what is his job description? We don't know. It is not as clear as what Mr. Moussa said earlier to you. It isn't clear. We don't know what powers he will have vis-a-vis parliament. We don't know what powers he will have vis-a-vis cabinet. Who will the cabinet be answerable to? To the president or to parliament? Who will write the constitution?

The constitutional assembly that is supposed to write the constitution was elected by a parliament whose foundation now has been declared unconstitutional. So will it be unconstitutional? Now the other problem, to increase the confusion, parliament is dissolved. We have to have a new parliament. According to a new election law, who will write this law? According to what principles?

There is something very, very messy in what is happening. I also want to come to what Mr. Moussa has said about the timing. You raised a very important question about the suspicious timing of this ruling today. Never before has the constitutional court ruled so quickly in these matters.

AMANPOUR: But you --

FAHMY: (Inaudible) in fact --

AMANPOUR: -- but you say that -- you say that --

FAHMY: (Inaudible) earlier --

AMANPOUR: You say that, but we were told that there was going to be a ruling today, and that this has been under investigation for a long time.

FAHMY: In fact, the prime minister himself has said publicly -- I mean, he has been quoted to say that he knew the result of the ruling today more than a month ago. The ruling had been, in his words, in the drawers (ph). In other words, this ruling had been prepared. The government and the staff knew about it. And they used the timing today in order to prepare for the presidential elections in a couple of days.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Fahmy, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

And, as you said, confusion does seem to be the name of the game as Egypt walks a tightrope now between free elections and potential military rules again. We will take a look back at the man who mastered that balancing act and set his country on the path that led it to today. We'll be right back.



AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where one revolution leads to another. Sixty years ago there was the first uprising in Egypt, led by this man, Gamal Abdel Nasser. He rose from student protester to army officer to leader of a military coup and eventually president, ending centuries of dominance by foreign powers, a champion of pan-Arab nationalism, an implacable foe of Israel.

Nasser was followed by Sadat, whose assassination led to Mubarak, whose overthrow led to, well, we still don't know. As you've just heard, we don't know where it may lead, confusion. In Egypt, the future remains unreadable.

That's it for tonight's program. Thank you for watching. Goodbye from New York.