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Egyptian Vote;

Aired June 18, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour reporting to you tonight from Cairo, where Egypt has just concluded the final round of its first-ever democratic presidential election.

My brief tonight: is this man, who is not even running, the real winner of the election? He's the head of the Egyptian military, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. Tonight, he remains in charge, even as the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi claims victory.

Morsi's jubilant supporters have been celebrating in Tahrir Square as though it were all settled already. But the picture is far from clear. All the votes are not yet counted, and official election results will not be announced until Thursday. Morsi's challenger, Ahmed Shafiq, claims he may actually have won.

Meanwhile, SCAF, the military's ruling council, has suspended parliament and the constitution and as polls closed on Sunday, SCAF issued a decree that stripped the new president of much of his meaningful power. Today, a military council member said that the new president is nearly a transitional figure until SCAF approves a new constitution.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): The upcoming president will occupy the office for a short period of time, whether or not he agrees.


AMANPOUR: So joining me tonight, Jihad Haddad, spokesman for Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, and Saad Ibrahim, a long-time Egyptian democracy activist, who was imprisoned during the Mubarak regime along with none other than Mohammed Morsi himself.

Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for joining me. Let me get to you straightaway, Jihad. So there's a victory claim by your candidate, even if he does win the vote, apparently he's got no meaningful power if the military is stripped all the meat from the bone.

JIHAD HADDAD, SPOKESMAN, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: They do not have the authority to dissolve parliament, neither do they have the right to issue any constitutional amendments or declarations, both of which have been refused by the majority of political powers in Egypt.

Parliament is still, according to our referendum and according to the rest of the political powers in Egypt and the people of Egypt are still running, they have a next session next Tuesday. The constitutional assembly elected by the elected parliament is in session right now. So from our point of view, everything is running smoothly.

AMANPOUR: Well, that might be a little like looking through the looking glass, frankly, because you're talking about all these institutions which the military has disbanded.

Let me turn to you, Saad Ibrahim. Obviously, Jihad Haddad is talking a good game. They don't want what's been arranged already to be nullified by the military. Can a president, whoever's elected, Mohammed Morsi, Ahmed Shafiq, actually have any power? Parliament is dissolved. Constitutional assembly has been disbanded.

SAAD IBRAHIM, EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY ADVOCATE: The real hold of power is still SCAF and therefore whatever the elected president, the elected parliament may say, they still have only moral authority. But they don't have a real power to get things done. SCAF still holds all the cards.

AMANPOUR: So only moral authority and SCAF basically holds all the cards. So what, in your mind -- you just heard what Jihad said, they're going to go to parliament; they're going to seat and meet with the constitutional assembly, even though SCAF is basically disbanded them. What is your road map for the future, at least over the next few days and weeks?

IBRAHIM: Well, I think given the record of the ability of the Muslim Brotherhood to compromise and to be pragmatic (ph), they will broadly behind closed doors of seeking a compromise with SCAF.

They have had this kind of moments of victory at least three times in their history. And they lost quite a few, because of their tendency to prematurely declare victory or to prematurely challenge those who have part (ph). I think this time they don't want that moment to slip out of their hands.

AMANPOUR: OK. A lot of -- a lot of allegations being leveled there. Are you in some kind of compromise, are your candidates, are your people meeting with SCAF, with the military? Is there something going on behind the scenes? Or some kind of coexistence?

HADDAD: I would agree with Dr. Saad, these are the three powers that appear to be on the scene. But the reality is that the giant has not been mentioned, which is the Egyptian people themselves.

Now this is a very different shaping factor, because the revolution of the 25th of January has changed the psychology of the Egyptian people and their will and intent to make sure that their vote is effective. And we believe that this is a game-changer, both from our side and from the SCAF side.

From our point of view, we believe that SCAF will uphold their promise to deliver power, full executive power at the end of this month. They have already delivered legislative power to parliament. Parliament still holds it up till this moment.

The verdict that has been announced by the constitutional court as well as the issue of a decree by SCAF have so many loopholes that the majority of the judges in Egypt have even refused them.

AMANPOUR: So what are you going to do? How are you going to challenge? Because I hear you talking about business as usual and you're going to ignore the SCAF -- what SCAF has just done. How are you going to challenge?

HADDAD: Like any democratic nation, by rule of law. We will take this back to the constitutional court. We will make sure it goes through the legal scrutiny required. This is (inaudible) decision that the constitutional court of Egypt has ever issued. And it has a lot more political decision-making (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: People did say they were disappointed after the parliamentary elections that gave the parliament almost overwhelmingly to the Muslim Brotherhood. They were disappointed. They saw you got power, but it wasn't being exercised in a way that they were satisfied by. Have you failed already? Have you failed the test of democracy already?

HADDAD: Well, let me first correct the information. The Muslim Brotherhood does not control parliament. The party of the Muslim Brotherhood --


AMANPOUR: Freedom and Justice Party --

HADDAD: -- has 41 percent, even with its --

AMANPOUR: But along with the coalition --

HADDAD: -- the coalition, 47 percent. So it doesn't --

AMANPOUR: (Inaudible) -- you're the biggest power --

HADDAD: (Inaudible). So we had a good say in it. But picking up from that, this is parliament. This is the legislative power. It has been doing its job perfectly in the past couple of works and couple of months in legislating new laws that would make sure that the results of the revolution are safeguarded and the (inaudible) people can have positive realities and meanings to them.

But the problem happened when SCAF refused to hand over executive power in the form of governments. And thus those are being created but not implemented. And the Egyptian citizen that cast their vote in parliamentary election were asking for accountability.

AMANPOUR: But, again, do you think you overplayed your hand? I was in Tahrir Square during the revolution, and I saw very clearly what the Muslim Brotherhood was doing. It wasn't pushing itself to the forefront.

It didn't want to say that we are going to take charge and take power. In fact, didn't even want to contest the presidential elections. Suddenly, you're everywhere. And people seem to be a little concerned.

HADDAD: That's correct.

AMANPOUR: Do you think you've overplayed your hand?

HADDAD: I think we have gave much more confidence to the will of intent of the SCAF on delivering genuine democratic power to the Egyptian people. And when we realized that, we may have over given them confidence. We realize that this jeopardizes the genuine nature of the democracy of Egypt and we are not intent on putting this in jeopardy any more.

AMANPOUR: What can you say if, indeed, Mr. Morsi is the winner? What can you say to women, to Christians, who are genuinely worried?

HADDAD: Their rights will be safeguarded much more than it was during Mubarak's time. All personal freedoms will be safeguarded. They will have complete freedom in everyone of their choices, even religion, everything that has been echoed about the Muslim Brotherhood is probably much more lie than truth. In reality, we are much more liberal than everyone else thinks we are.

AMANPOUR: And what do you think is -- is this a transitional moment? I mean, for instance, I just quoted a member of SCAF, who said that whoever is president, whether it's Mr. Shafiq or Mr. Morsi, it's only a transitional moment.

IBRAHIM: Yes, it is a transitional moment. And it should be observed. And I think the -- this gives the Egyptians a second chance to assess what's going on. There has been too much happening too quickly that for the average Egyptian, they are feeling of sudden alienation that they don't know their country any more.

So the people who fought, who stood their ground in Tahrir in January, (inaudible), now feel as if the revolution has been hijacked partly by the military, by SCAF, and finally by the Muslim Brotherhood. These two hijackers are not the ones who made the revolution. The revolution was created by the youth of the middle class.

And you were here. You saw it. I came here in the middle of it after I interview -- were interviewed by you in New York. And I saw the theme for what it is.

AMANPOUR: Before I get to the hijack moment --

HADDAD: (Inaudible). We are existing in the youth in the middle class --

IBRAHIM: Well, of course.

HADDAD: (Inaudible) day one.

AMANPOUR: But let me ask you, Saad, you were, as we announced, imprisoned under the Mubarak regime, alongside Mohammed Morsi. We know the history of the brotherhood, have been hunted down and imprisoned for decades. What kind of a leader did you see him as in prison?

IBRAHIM: I did not, frankly, see him as a leader. He was a very decent, respected man in prison. But there was at least two other -- the Muslim Brotherhood are very high radical, very disciplined. I saw at least two others who were a little bit above him, and they are the ones who appeared to be the leaders of the fellow Muslim Brothers in prison.

AMANPOUR: Well, now there's -- now that we have that description from a fellow cellmate, shall we say, and we know that Mr. Morsi was the second choice, because the first choice of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, was disqualified. Is he the man to lead the party, not just to the presidency, if he does win, but into this very strange, dark alley of not really knowing whether there's going to be a president who has actually power, and certainly one who's going to have to figure out how to live with the military as it's currently running this country?

HADDAD: He has already done so. He has been the chief of the party and its president since its inception. And he has led us to the presidency. He was the second choice of the Muslim Brotherhood because of the vote count.

Not any more. And in reality, I think that he has been the choice of 52 percent of the Egyptian people. We know that 48 percent of the Egyptian people did not choose him, and they have their complete respect and regard of the president and of his kings and his party, and we will make sure that the entire aspirations of both the revolution and Egyptians for the past 60 years will start to come into effect in this presidency.

I do concur with Dr. Saad that it is transitional in nature, because we hope that the SCAF two-year would have been transitional, but they have not been. We have not yet put our affairs in order in Egypt, and we hope that we can do so within this next presidential period.

AMANPOUR: You all, and so does this country, have your work cut out for you.

HADDAD: Indeed.

AMANPOUR: Jihad Haddad, Saad Ibrahim, thank you so much for joining me.

HADDAD: Thank you.

IBRAHIM: Our pleasure. Thank you for coming.

AMANPOUR: And when we return, we'll talk to a scholar and a journalist with intimate knowledge of Egypt's history and a personal stake in its uncertain future. But first, take a look, how the might have fallen, so says the Bible.

And in our own time, this photo says it vividly. It was taken two years ago at an Afro-Arab Summit in Libya. In the front row, that's Libya's leader, Moammar Gadhafi, posing with Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, and Yemen's President Saleh with Tunisia's President Ben Ali, hands crossed, smiling for the camera. Two years later, nobody's smiling and all of those four are gone from power. We'll be right back.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to our broadcast from Cairo, where we continue our coverage of Egypt's historic elections. Here with me now are Mona el- Ghobashy, an Egyptian political scientist at Barnard College in New York, and Max Rodenbeck, chief Middle East correspondent for "The Economist." He grew up here in Cairo and he spent much of his life in the city.

Thank you both very much for joining me.

Let me go straight to you first, since you know this country so well, and you're watching it with a journalist's eye. Is the bloom off the rose? I mean, we have heard and we've witnessed the first-ever free and fair elections in Egypt's history, certainly in the parliamentaries, they were declared fair and free. And now here we are with a president being elected with virtually no power.

MAX RODENBECK, CHIEF MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT, "THE ECONOMIST": I think you're absolutely right, that the bloom is off the rose. I mean, on the one hand, of course these are the best elections that have been held in Egypt ever, both the parliamentary elections and these presidential elections.

But on the other hand, they're held within such constraints that it's left everyone with a sense of incompleteness that it hasn't gotten to where people want it. And there's been these presidential elections that the two candidates were -- had left a lot of people feeling unsatisfied with either one. It was a highly polarized election.

AMANPOUR: The one was sort of the sphere of what an Islamist- dominated legislator of presidency would do and the other was the fear of what some thought would be the representative of the military or the representative of the previous regime.

RODENBECK: Exactly. So I think a lot of the voting was actually negative. I mean, people voted in order not to have the other person win. It wasn't positive. The people were uninspired by this.

AMANPOUR: So Mona, you're here from Barnard to observe these elections. How are you feeling about them?

MONA EL-GHOBASHY, BARNARD COLLEGE: Well, like many Egyptians, I'm both very excited and also full of trepidation, right? And the first round of the elections, I think, we had a really nice slate of candidates with pretty remarkable choice for a country emerging out of 60 years of one-man rule.

There were old former regime candidates. There were revolutionary candidates. There were marginal candidates that nobody knew anything about. And I think that most voters who went to the polls on May 23rd and 24th went with a certain sense of pride and excitement.

AMANPOUR: That was the first round.

EL-GHOBASHY: That was the first round, in May. The vote over the past two days, as everyone has been observing, it was a lot more lackluster. There was a sense of resignation because as Max pointed out, the two candidates were not really fulfilling what people were hoping. This was a moment where we were supposed to inaugurate the first-ever Egyptian chief executive with a popular will. And it was a less-than- optimal vote. But then again, that's what elections often do.

AMANPOUR: But less than optimal because he practically has been stripped of any meaningful power. Jihad Haddad, the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, was just on the program before you.

And he's basically saying that they are going to operate as if everything was normal, that parliament was in session, that the constitutional assembly was still valid, and move on in that way. They're going to try to sit in parliament.

RODENBECK: Well, the next couple of weeks will be a testing moment, I think. I think it's rather difficult to foresee how far the Muslim Brotherhood will be able to get with this. There's a lot of the general public is tired and worn out and rather fed up with protests and with trying to sort of get a maximalist agenda.

And I think that the military may have played its cards right in some respects by finding this moment to buy some insurance for itself, in a sense, by putting down rules that mean that it will -- it will continue to wield most of the real power behind the scenes.

AMANPOUR: So playing its cards right for itself, but I mean, everybody from the U.S. government to people all over the world are saying watch out, we really want this to be free and fair and democratic.

RODENBECK: Well, I think that reflects the fact that it's a huge disappointment for a lot of people. But of course, I mean, ultimately it is the military in Egypt that does control power. And I think, you know, when I say they're buying insurance for themselves, but the way they see it is that they are the insurers of Egypt.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that they will hand over power by July 1st?

RODENBECK: I think that we will go through the motions. They've said there will be a big celebration on July 1st so the real power will remain in their hands. But --

AMANPOUR: Including legislative power.

RODENBECK: To a certain degree. That's not even very clear. Like so many things, unfortunately, during this long transition, it remains quite unclear what it actually means by the declarations they made.

It still isn't very clear. They will retain some legislative role, but it doesn't really -- it's not quite clear what that means, that the power to block laws or to suggest legislation. But it looks like the parliament, when it reconvenes, will have some power to --

AMANPOUR: And when might that be, Mona? When do you think the parliament might reconvene? It has to be reelected.

EL-GHOBASHY: It has to be reelected and they made very clear in the constitutional declaration, they came down very clearly to say that first there has to be a constitution, and the constitution has to be accepted in a referendum. And only then will we have presidential elections. And by doing so, they came down very strongly with the side of the constitution firsters.

There was a major debate in Egypt over the summer between the mostly liberal and secular forces, who wanted a constitution first under the argument that you could not set up a series of institutions without first knowing how those institutions would function.

AMANPOUR: Kind of makes sense.

EL-GHOBASHY: Makes a lot of sense. But however, it's counterintuitive to think that you need elections first. The logic there, which I actually supported, was the following: you cannot write a constitution in the absence of popularly elected institutions. Otherwise, what you have is a Portugal situation.

In the Carnation Revolution in 1974, the Portuguese constitution was written under the guise of military rule. In fact, the military in Portugal had the opposition sign a document, saying that they basically would have the military write it.

This is a danger that we're in right now. By coming down very strongly on the constitution first, this means that our constitution is going to be written by the military in effect, and their handpicked legal scholars. This is a very dangerous way to begin setting up presumably democratic institutions.

AMANPOUR: So Mona, how do you see this going forward? Is it going to be Tahrir Square again? The people said -- and I remember so clearly and so do all of you, if they go against our will, we have Tahrir. It's almost like it's become a verb, it's become a rallying cry.

Do you think that we're going to see popular confrontation again?

EL-GHOBASHY: I think that one of the miracles of this revolution was that it inserted as many people have said the Egyptian public back, front and center into politics. Under Mubarak, Egypt, as everybody knew, was a one-man game. Whatever Mubarak wanted and his advisers, happened.

The revolution didn't take power, but the revolution did something else. It created breakthrough in Egyptian politics, where now you can never go back to one-man rule. You have military rule. You have electoral politics and the Muslim Brothers excel at that, but you also have something very significant that many countries in western Europe actually are pining for, which is the energy and the excitement of street politics.

This is not disorder, as many people would like us to believe, including some segments of the Muslim Brothers. This is politics back to its original foundations, people expressing themselves in public squares, showing an extraordinary degree of public consciousness and using their numbers to get what they want.

AMANPOUR: Muslim Brotherhood, Freedom and Justice Party as they insist on being called right now, they say they're much more liberal and pluralist and inclusive than many would have them believe, many would like to believe. Do you buy that?


AMANPOUR: Christians are scared. Women are scared.

RODENBECK: Well, they're naturally scared because for one thing, they have -- the Muslim Brothers have never tried in power before. But for another thing, the Muslim Brothers carry a lot of the stigma attached to the really much broader spectrum of Islamist movements, which range from very extreme violent to the extremely tolerant. So this untried Muslim Brotherhood has to sort of find itself.

And they've evolved a lot over time. They've even evolved a lot in their positions just in the last year. So this is all untested, but I think the sort of extreme fear is very much exaggerated, not just because it seems that this, the Muslim Brotherhood will not have that -- be wielding that much power right now, because of the constitutional structure, but also because the Muslim Brotherhood has evolved.

AMANPOUR: (Inaudible), are you worried, should there be a Muslim Brotherhood presidency?

EL-GHOBASHY: I'm not worried. The Muslim Brothers is a conservative political party. There's no doubt about that. No matter how many statements they make about how liberal they really are, I don't think that's really the issue.

The issue is that the Muslim Brothers represent the biggest counterweight to the military. Instead of hearing hypothetical religious rule as the adversaries of the Muslim Brothers would like us to believe, we should not be more concerned with actual military rule and the Muslim Brothers right now, for better or worse, represent the only institutionalized counterweight to that kind of military rule.

AMANPOUR: Mona and Max, thank you both very much indeed for joining me.

And Egypt's elections, as we've been discussing, has created more questions than answers. Among them, can Egypt's military and the Muslim Brotherhood coexist? History suggests that it is possible. When we return.



AMANPOUR: And finally, it's the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's military somehow find a way to coexist, it won't be unprecedented. Imagine a world where Islamists and the army ruled Egypt together. It happened 1,000 years ago, when Saladin, Sultan of Egypt, created an elite corps of slave soldiers called the Mamluks.

Eventually the slaves overthrew their masters and for 800 years off and on the Mamluks held power on the Nile, until a young French officer invaded Egypt in 1798, and defeated them at the Battle of the Pyramids. Napoleon never conquered Egypt and met his Waterloo almost 200 years ago today.

And a new chapter in Egypt's fascinating history begins. And that's it for tonight's program. Thank you and goodbye from Cairo.