In an interview with FJPARTYonline.com, Dr. Mohamed Saad El-Katatny, Secretary General of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), stated that the attempts to disrupt the parliamentary elections are weak attempts and elections will take place on time as scheduled. He pointed out all attempts to circumvent the will of the Egyptian people will fail.
Katatny called on the Military Council to abandon the document of Dr. Ali Al-Selmi which he described as “catastrophic". Katatny criticized the document which gave SCAF a privileged position, instead of being a part of the state institutions. He stated that it is known that the armed forces are part of the executive authority and not an independent institution and its role is protecting the country not protecting the constitutional legitimacy as the document claimed.
Q&A With Saad El Katatny, FJP Secretary General:
Dr. Ali Al-Selmi’s document raised great controversy in the political life, few days before the elections. How do you explain that?
The timing in which the document was issued came in busy days while everyone was busy with the parliamentary elections. The document has caused controversy and divisions in the political street. Al-Selmi now is reproducing it and we wonder for whose interest would people get into elections in a state of tension and confusion?
Selmi, before being appointed in the ministry, participated in the Democratic Alliance in drafting his document while he was a representative of Al-Wafd Pary. At that time we considered the document and Al-Azhar document as guidance only, not a binding document. We believe that considering the document as binding circumvents the will of the people. It remained like that until Al-Selmi formed a committee and included articles that are restrictive to the will of the people such as that this document cannot be changed or interpreted. He also included the Supreme Constitutional Court where he said “if the drafting committee of constitution changed the articles of the document, the Supreme Constitutional Court will have to interfere to stop this decision." Another article was added to the document which was about the criteria of forming committee of preparing the constitution, which also ignores the wills of the people as it made other bodies, choose the committee of drafting the Constitution, without having candidates from the Shoura Council and the parliament, who were directly chosen by the people. We, in the FJP, see that the committee drafting the constitution should include people representing all sects of the society.
You announced that in Al-Selmi’s document, you agreed on 20 articles in it. What are the articles you reject then?
We did not understand the timing of calling for promoting for this new document or what should be done, however, when we read it we found that article 9 was added, which is a catastrophe, because it gave SCAF a privileged position, instead of being a part of the state institutions. He stated that it is known that the armed forces are part of the executive authority and not an independent institution. Article 9 states that the military’s role is protecting the country not protecting the constitutional legitimacy as the document claimed. This situation doesn’t apply in democratic states, which is a similar case to Turkey and it is in the process of ending it now.
The second paragraph of Article 9 states that the budget of the Military monitors only one number, and we are not against the privacy of the matters of the armed forces, but it can be discussed in closed sessions or with the committee of national security and defense. We do not wish to interfere but the elected legislative authority has to be informed of what is happening while taking the necessary precautions to circulate these information which affects the Egyptian national security.
And we rejected the third paragraph of Article 9 which states that the armed forced is the only body responsible for its laws, as this is a complete extraction of the roles of the Parliament. We would understand it if the armed forces draft its laws and then it is discussed in the Parliament, but this article provides that “the Armed Forces drafts the law and passes it in the parliament."
To what extent do you agree with the view that Al-Salemi’s act is a move is a pro-active attempt to prevent the Islamists from dominating the committee drafting the constitution?
Most analysts say that. After the revolution the Islamic trends became strongly present in the streets and they might win the majority of votes in the parliamentary and shoura council elections and perhaps many of them would be chosen to be in the constitution drafting committee. However, we respect the choices of the people and respect democracy and we, FJP, always said that the Constitution and its drafting is not linked to a parliamentary majority, since majority is variable and the Constitution is stable.
In your opinion, who is behind Al-Salemi document? is it a liberal move to reduce the Islamists dominance on the scene?
I rule out it was a liberal move. I guess it happened with the approval of SCAF.
Why would SCAF do that?
SCAF was feeling safe under Mubarak’s regime, maybe now it needs more assurance especially with speculation about who will take over power, which makes it need more reassurances. However this is not justified because we must respect the will of the people and the Egyptians with all their different sects of Islamists and liberals are keen on this national and any other sect will also be keen on the work of this institution, privacy and giving it its best to function properly. The Egyptian army is patriotic and no one can doubt this.
Would this be considered as a reassuring message from you to SCAF?
I am not giving reassurance messages, but I say facts. Every Egyptian is keen on this country and this must be said. SCAF doesn’t need anyone’s reassurance and it should trust the Egyptian people and vice versa.
Did you receive a response from SCAF after threatening to organize a million-man demonstration?
We did not receive any messages and we did not contact them. SCAF has to make its position clear before the 18th of November to alleviate the tension and answer the questions.
The winning of “Tunisian Nahda”, which is led by an Islamist, is it the reason behind the emergence of this document, in an attempt to circumvent the will of the people?
Many analysts think as the Tunisian Nahda won a large percentage of votes in the constituent assembly elections, this model will be repeated in Egypt. In my opinion, it is a different situation, as Egypt is different from Tunisia. Egypt is more diverse and there is diversity even within the Islamic movements themselves and liberal movements too. The presence of a large number of post-revolutionary parties competing in elections doesn’t make it possible for an Islamist faction, liberal, remnants or independents win the majority alone. I assume that the seats will be distributed between the parties and the Islamic trend may win less than 50%.
With the current state of confusion in the political scene, do you think elections will take place on its scheduled time?
I am optimistic because things are still going normal and the attempts to disrupt the elections are weak.
Some liberal and leftist movements announced its support to this document; do you have an explanation to this?
These powers are against the Islamic movement and it is not justified for them to speak about democracy or practicing it. They are the most ones who spoke about democracy, but it seems that they want a tailored democracy, and real competition and respect of the public opinion is not in their agendas. Al-Salemi’s document is restrictive to the will of the people and has articles that need explanation. No democratic country would accept such a document.
I think their fear from the participation of the Islamic movement and to come to power through free and fair elections made them become extreme in their discussion. Some of them agreed to the document while others had some reservations on Article 9.
Are the stances of these forces in line with the demands which call for the armed forces to remain in power?
Advocating military rule is a very extreme idea. Military ruling leads to tyrannical rule. I think some of these people hate Islam itself.
One of the advantages of Al-Selmi’s Document is bringing ideas closer with the Salafi’s. Is that true?
We did not have convergence of opinions. The Freedom and Justice Party chose to have a broad national alliance regardless of the different ideologies. Al-Nour Party, Al-Asala and Construction and Development formed an Islamic block. We respect that and there are common areas between us in which we can cooperate.
Does that mean that there is an election’s document between you?
Executive Bureau of the FJP decided at its last meeting which was held on Tuesday, to withdraw candidates in favour of national and public figures in some constituencies. Each constituency will be discussed after the completion of appeals and if we find that there are national figures that will be useful in the parliament we will withdraw our candidates from it.
Is there an actual coordination with the Salafis?
Until now there is no coordination but there is a fair competition. We look forward to coordinating at the level of the country in order to be able to see the whole picture.
The Democratic Alliance began with 42 parties and ended with 11 parties. Isn’t this considered as a big loss for the alliance?
Alliance began as a political bloc, and succeeded to draft the document of alliance and the law of parliamentary elections. The Electoral Alliance remained and formed a committee to coordinate the elections. This committee had put criteria for the selection of candidates, including not to be one of the remnants of the NDP and to be reputable, efficient, popular and not involved in cases of corruption.
The Coordinating Committee was formed from a number of parties headed by Dr. Wahid Abdel Meguid and we only had one representative that is Dr. Mohamed Beltagy. The Committee put lists and said that FJP and Al-Wafd Party as a coalition can get 60% and the rest of the parties in the coalition, 19 parties, were given 5%. These parties are: Al-Karamah, Al-Nassery, Ghad Al-Thawrah, Construction and Development and the Labour party.
A group of other parties had 1.5% with a maximum of ten candidates including Al-Nahda Party and Al-Hadara Party. The rest of the parties had about three to five according to the percentage of the Shoura Council, Parliament and lists of individuals, groups, workers and women. This was the opinion of the Coordination Committee, not the FJP’s.
In actual application, some parties excluded a number of its candidates for the mismatch of criteria and everyone was cooperative about this point. When we came to apply these rules we found some difficulties, as parties entered names of candidates from groups and no workers. They also brought candidates from the parliament and no candidates for the Shura Council and did not bring individual candidates. They also focused their efforts in some governorates such as Cairo, Giza, and some provinces of the Delta and neglected the rest of the provinces. They also wanted to put their names at the top of the lists and when it was not possible, some parties insisted on its position and the Committee could not meet their demands, they used to leave the alliance if the committee couldn’t meet their demands.
Other parties which had shown flexibility and responded in favor of the alliance like Al-Karama , Ghad Al-Thawran, Al-Hadara and the Labour party remained in the alliance until the end.
But in FJP you are accused of being always on top of the lists?
This is not true. We are committed to standards that we were given. For example, we have Saad Abboud (Nasserist) on the top of the list in Beni Suef governorate and Waheed Abdel Meguid on the top of the list in Qasr Al-Nile and we booked the top of the list for Hamdeen Sabbahi, but he apologized for running for the parliament. Same goes to Ayman Nour, but the conditions of his sentence prevented this from happening.
If you look to the parties in the alliance, they are all without exceptions in the first half of the lists. The percentage of FJP is big because the electoral system imposed on us to complete the lists so parties have merely used symbols in top of the lists and FJP completed the rest of the lists.
If you look at the first half of the list, you will realize that FJP’s percentage is below the announced percentage while occupying most of the seats in the second half to complete the lists in which chances of success are poor.
Will you participate in the formation of the government?
If people trusted and had faith in us, we will participate with others in a coalition government. FJP does not seek the majority in the parliament or to form a government alone.
What are the ministries that you think you will be more efficient in managing?
We did not think about this issue until today, but if we were to participate in the government, then service ministries are of our interest, especially as the nature of this stage make us care more about the issues of development and production. The ministries that we would care about are health, housing, transport and communications.
Will you learn from the experiences of successful models of ruling in the managing such a file?
Now we are studying and benefiting from the experiences of Turkey and Malaysia, and we have studied several other models. We have concluded that the application of the Turkish and Malaysian models is closest for us. We are now planning for meetings between us and the Turkish side for the training of a number of FJP cadres’ on development issues.
The security challenge is the most serious challenge facing the electoral process. Do you have a vision to address the problem of security during elections?
This is a very important point that should be taken into account. It is the duty of the police, armed forces to secure the electoral process and we are ready to assist the police and armed forces with people’s committees including the youths of FJP and others to secure the electoral process, especially as it will go through three stages and we believe that the people who made ??the revolution are capable of protecting the electoral process because this is the first step in the path of democratic transition.