- January 19, 2007
Al Katatni: We Reject NDP Tailored Constitutional Amendments
The Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc in Egypt managed to successfuly and effectively lead the opposition movement in parliament through its performance and discipline, to the extent that most of the security crackdown that the group faced since 88 of its members won the 2005 parliamentary elections is attributed to- according to experts- the effective performance of the Muslim Brotherhood MPs, their opposition to the government and their commitment to issues of common interest to the public, e.g the judicial independence, the freedom of journalists and fighting the corruption of top government officials.
Dr. Mohamed Saad Al Katatni, the chairman of the MB parliamentary bloc in the People’s Assembly thinks that the popularity and credibility of the group among Egyptians will overcome any attempts to legally outlawing it. In an interview with Ikhwanweb, Al Katani added that the regime may legally ban the group, but it will never be able to undermine its popularly.
Ikhwanweb: The group respects the principle of citizenship and considers it a main element of a democracy; why does the parliamentary bloc object to amending the fifth article of the constitution which bans forming any political or party activity based on religion, race or origin?
Al katatni: This amendment is conflicting with the second article of the Egyptian constitution stipulating that Islam is the religion of the state and Arabic is its official language, and the Islamic Sharia principles are the main source of legislation.
The amendment proposed for banning any political or party action based on religion excludes citizens right in exercising the political action according to their intellectual and ideological affiliations; this is because the development of the political life is based on the regimes ability to deal with the society’s trends and people’s desires, something excluded by this amendment.
We respect the principle of not differentiating among compatriots because of their religion, race or origin because this is a principle which is ordained by the Islamic Sharia.
Ikhwanweb: But you lodged a bill law that rejects establishing parties on a religious basis?
Al Katatni: This is true; we reject establishing political parties on a religious basis according to the concept of the religious country, because we basically reject the idea of a religious country because it is a country in which the ruler and clerics are considered infallible.
We demand a civil country that has an Islamic reference; the people are the source of authorities; thus, the country and part we seek don’t contradict with the current constitution and they don’t even contradict until with the amendment of the fifth article that bans establishing a party on a religious basis; this is because our reference is constitutional, which is the second article of the constitution.
Ikhwanweb: According to the proposed amendments, the Muslim Brotherhood’s activity will be outlawed according to the constitution; will the group establish a political party to bypass the attempts of outlawing it?
Al Katatni: The idea of establishing a party has been on the table for a long period of time; we don’t want to be an outlawed entity; it is the regime that imposed this ban despite our popular legitimacy; but the committee of parties affairs is an unconstitutional committee, making us stop short of requesting to establish a party before this committee which is headed by the Egyptian Shura Council speaker who is also the Secretary-General of the National Democratic Party; even forming it and choosing the public figures inside it is determined by the president who is also the chairman of the National Democratic Party.
The National Democratic Party won’t approve establishing a strong party like the Muslim Brotherhood Party.
Ikhwanweb: But the president said in his latest statements that the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement is a threat to the security of Egypt!
Al Katatni: The president’s statement was politically motivated; he did not speak as a president to all Egyptians but as a president to the National Democratic Party and he knows well that the Muslim Brotherhood is the biggest rival for him on the ground.
But we say that the real threat to the security of Egypt is the corruption of the National Democratic Party and that what makes investors escape with their investments from this country is the unsuccessful policies of the this party which is headed by president Mohamed Hosni Mubarak.
Ikhwanweb: The proposed amendments covered various axes, like the judicial supervision on elections, the electoral system and the presidential conditions and others…What is your opinion regarding these amendments?
Al Katatni: These amendments establish tyranny and prepare for the hereditary transfer of power to Mubarak Jr. and decreasing the margin of freedom that the Egyptian people obtained during the last two years. While we demand expanding the judicial supervision over the elections, we are stunned by amendments that want us to return back under the false claims of reducing the role of the judge on the ballot box and holding all the elections in one day after they were held in three stages and in three days, and attempting to change the electoral system itself from the individual system to a party slate which means marginalizing 97 % of the Egyptian people who aren’t affiliated to political parties; when he doesn’t even discuss amending article 77 to allow a peaceful transfer of power and that defines the term of the president, this is a strong indication that there are no plans for discussing such a transfer.
Ikhwanweb: But the amendments included positive articles like reducing the president’s powers…!
Al Katatni: This is a good indication: reducing the president’s powers for the Prime Minister, but what are the powers that will be reduced; will they be superficial or will they be real powers; this isn’t clear until now.
You have been demanding canceling the emergency law; the amendments will present a new law to protect the country from terrorism while the state of emergency will be canceled; why do you fear such a law?
People have been demanding abolishing the state of emergency imposed on the country and keeping the law, but the regime will take these articles and this state and put them in a permanent law called “anti-terrorism law”; the other worry is that there is no specific definition for terrorism, which will make this law a new instrument to intimidate people and violate their freedoms which are guaranteed by the third chapter of the constitution.
Ikhwanweb: You have a complete view towards amending some articles of the constitution; why haven’t you present them to the People’s Assembly?
Al Katatni: Article 189 of the constitution allows the president or one third of the People’s Assembly members to introduce amendments in the articles of the constitution on condition of the approval of two thirds of MPs, a high ceiling of MPs to present such a request; the Egyptian parliament’s history hasn’t witnessed such an incident in which MPs introduce amendments in the constitution because the majority of the National Democratic Party blocks such attempts; we once attempted to introduce an amendment in an article in the Assembly’s bylaw and this required the same quorum, but the NDP’s majority blocked it to close the door in front of any one thinking about amendments.
Ikhwanweb: Which is better for Egypt: amending some articles of the constitution or changing it totally?
Al Katatni: The best is, of course, introducing a new constitution that addresses the current stage; this is because this constitution was drafted in a time and era which are different from ours.
However, this is actually unavailable; we can’t do but deal with status quo imposed on us; the amendments included 34 articles across all the chapters of the constitution; this will lead to some kind of inconsistency between some amended articles and other old articles because the constitution is supposed to have a general philosophy it is founded on; the current constitution is based on a socialist system and the coalition of the labor force, which aren’t found in the current stage, making the president offer to amend it; the most appropriate is drafting a new constitution.
Ikhwanweb: Analysts point out that these amendments aim at excluding the Muslim Brotherhood group from the political life in Egypt; do you think so?
Al Katatni: Yes, we feel that these amendments aim at marginalizing and excluding the role of the Muslim Brotherhood; however, the Egyptian people and its love to the Muslim Brotherhood and its feeling in the credibility of this movement will abort such attempts; I think that they may succeed in outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood, but they can’t exclude us as much as the popular aspect is concerned.
Ikhwanweb: The People’s Assembly will discuss these amendments in the coming days; what is the attitude to be taken by the parliamentary bloc towards these amendments inside the Assembly?
Al Katatni: We will reject the amendments as a whole because we refuse the principle of introducing amendments at such a unsuitable time in which the political and constitutional reform process is retreating and while the society is facing very bad conditions that require finding a suitable climate for ending political tensions.
The amendments are proposed by president Mubarak who is the president of the National Democratic Party; they are proposed without holding any wide popular dialogue around them; he is only using his NDP majority in the parliament to pass his amendment, although these amendments need a consensus among all Egyptians, not only the National Party whose members are no more than 2 million members, according to the NDP’s statistics, while the Egyptian population is more than 78 millions; this is considered an exclusion of most Egyptian people including their various political spectrum through preventing them from exercising their rights and imposing a one-sided view that sends Egypt back to eras of backwardness and tyranny