Mohamed El Sayed Sae’ed, a political commentator and vice chairman of Al-Ahram Center for strategic studies, expected that the proposed constitutional amendments will impose more restrictions and pressures on the Egyptian civil society after they closed all democratic outlets in order to allow the dictatorial regime to maintain power.
He said, in his interview with Islamonline network, that the most outstanding target of the amendments is a full eradication of the Muslim Brotherhood group and increasing more restrictions on all its supporters; but he confirmed that this eradication will not be easy, because both regimes of Abd Al-Nasser and Sadat failed to do so. Said ruled out that the amendments may cause any social fallouts because the government policies were carried out ahead of the legislations, in both economic and political approaches.
He confirmed that the future can’t be predicted, specially concerning the scenario of Tawreeth (hereditary transfer of power from Mubarak Sr. to Mubarak Jr.) because hopes are still pinned on a possible emergence of a public movement, whose signs have appeared in the protests of the judges, lawyers and laborers and others. Said said that there are still hopes that the regime may reform itself, win the future battle and have a historical breakthrough, if it has the intentions to do so.
The following is the interview transcript:
First of all, do you expect that the expected package of constitutional amendments will have essential social effects on the life of the Egyptian ordinary citizen?
I do not think so, for a very simple reason: that most of the policies targeted by the amendment have been already executed on the ground, especially the economic measures related to applying the market economy as an alternative for the socialist policies which have been applied since July 1952 Revolution. Retreating from these measures started during the era of late president Anwar Sadat when he canceled the Ministry of Planning, and was keen on having an economic openness; then, president Mubarak assumed power with the well-known privatization program, that severed the government’s relations with any social role in the country.
Consequently, the amendments won’t add anything new on the economic landscape; they are only a recognition of policies which are applied on the ground for long years. It is only a legalization of the government’s current policies.
Will the amendments speed up the pace of economic change that the current government is applying; what are the expected reactions on this?
Definitely, these amendments provide the required cover for completing the privatization programs that started in the 1990s; we will witness more buyouts of public sector enterprises, more job cuts, and more expansion in the so called " the economy liberalization policy".
As for the reactions, they have already appeared in the form of a continuous rising state of anger among workers, especially in the textile industry sector that accounts for the biggest part of the labor force nationwide; whenever a crisis ends, another crisis quickly explodes; the Egyptian workers in general are worried about the future, and they won’t be satisfied with the government’s short-term solutions that take the form of incentives or others because this is currently related to their social security which has become continuously at the stakes.
If ordinary citizens are actually harmed before and after the amendments, can they do anything to resist or oppose the schemes of the National Democratic Party (NDP)?
The Egyptian citizen is totally excluded from the current dialogues; the ordinary layman has totally lost his trust in both the government and opposition, believing that the constitutional amendments can be understood in the light of a rivalry between the government and opposition caused by a conflict of interests, and that the interests of the country and the future of the coming generations aren’t taken into consideration by the supporters and opponents of these amendments, something that makes the citizen be sure that the government approved amending article 76 of the constitution, and although the amendment was marred, and despite boycotting the referendum, but it gave a blind eye to this; the same scene recurred in the presidential elections. As for the current amendments, the people are sure that the government and the National Democratic Party are carrying out what tightens and maintains the party’s grip on power regardless of approving or disapproving these directions, to eradicate any confidence between him and the government the opposition as well.
Don’t you expect the opposition parties to have a role specially at this serious phase?
The Egyptian opposition parties are currently paralyzed for many reasons: the government and its institutions participated in reducing their role to the lowest level; also, the government is currently sealing deals with some of these parties, in order to make them support the amendments in return for guarantees of increasing the number of their seats in the parliament in addition to other party privileges; however, this alliance between the government and parties may give a death blow to the remaining support to these parties in the Egyptian street, because the more they collaborate with the government, the more their limited account decrease in the public opinion.
If there are some advantages provided by these amendments to breath life into political parties, even if it is within a deal, can’t this lead to a better situation for these parties?
This is untrue, because the amendments have been accurately designed to close the door in front of the civil society; even the legislation that allowed most current political parties will be paralyzed; after amending Article 88, election process and its commission will not be challenged, and the candidates will be filtered, syndicates will be blockaded, in addition to tightening the grip on and outlawing popular movements like Kifaya Movement. All these measures will eventually lead to establishing a one-sided voice, which is the voice of the government and the ruling National Democratic Party that will be the main unrivalled player in the political arena; the most dangerous thing is immunizing the constitutional amendments against challenges in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court or other civilian courts.
What is the National Party’s real target from these amendments?
I think that the real target is ending all Egyptian hopes for establishing political reform, and a peaceful transfer of power, especially that these hopes were revived during 2005 and 2006, in addition to excluding the Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest political group on the political arena; the government is seemingly planning to direct deathblows to the group and its figures in a way that targets not only preventing them from running for the elections or denying them a political party but it also targets eradicating it altogether.
Can these amendments lead to eradicating the group as a whole, and how far can the regime carry out this step?
I think that the regime’s target of eradicating the Muslim Brotherhood as a whole isn’t that easy; both Abd Al-Nasser and Sadat failed to do so; it is true that all regimes, including the current regime, managed to impose a siege on and trim its influence but they couldn’t eradicate it from the Egyptian life. The currently proposed constitutional amendments may succeed in shaking or weakening the group through hitting its financiers, denying them stability, and forcing it to defend itself; there is a process of intimidation and distortion launched against the group. It has reached the limit of launching an all-out battle of eradication against the group figures.
I think that the danger lies in the government’s classifying intellectuals as pro-government and pro-Muslim Brotherhood; this sharp contrast is happening for the first in Egypt and it may backfire; this war on the Muslim Brotherhood caused contradictions in the Egyptian political landscape, because the biggest political power is denied any political participation, while the weightless powers are "legitimate".
What is your expectations regarding repealing the emergency law and replacing it with an anti-terrorism law, and what is its potential effect on the political action in general?
This law will be a political setback for Egypt in the future. What is most serious is that it targets defaming "reform", and closing all outlets used by national reformers; this legislation will add more stagnation in the Egyptian life in general; however, the new generation of patriotic young men will search for other alternatives to struggle for democracy and a peaceful transfer of power. This recurred in the Egyptians history during more dictator and authoritarian ages.
But, there are some who are still believing that the regime may reform itself from inside, can this happen?
Regardless of our disagreement or agreement with the regime over some key issues, but the Egyptian regime still has a great opportunity to reform itself from inside; I believe that it could have won the battle with the future, as it can push the society towards more reform and democracy, to attain a high rank in history; history still reminds us of the committee of Al-Ashqia "the villains" which emerged after 1919 revolution and that was aspiring to a wide Egyptian improvement; it rebelled against Saad Zaghloul because of its rejecting 1923 constitution that it thought that it does not meet their minimum required ambitions.
These Ashqia "villains" were led by Abdul Khalek Tharwat, whose name labels the street that turned to an important place for demanding reform and democracy; thus, I still believe that there hopes that the regime may reconsider its currently adopted policies which are against the aspirations of most Egyptians.
Finally, do these constitutional measures prepare Egypt for the scenario of Tawreeth (hereditary transfer of power from president Mubarak to his son)?
The situations in Egypt are complicated and can’t be easily understood; this is due to the fact that the regime is handling politics on a daily basis and doesn’t have a general policy. The actions on the ground are the ones that settle all files related to the regime’s political future. Some think that the protests of the judges, journalists, laborers, university professors, students and others are an uprising and a glimpse of hope and a proof that the Egyptian political body is still alive; on the other hand, there are some who think that the society is living a state of stagnation making the regime do it wants regarding the future. Finally, reality may have results which are totally different from all expectations, as is the usual case in Egypt!.