Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh is an Islamist, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a prominent political leader in Egypt. He was not afraid to speak his mind during the hardest of times. He said he is against toppling President Mohammed Mursi because he was democratically elected, but stressed that he is against any oppressive measures taken by the president even if he were Caliph and added that Mursi is protected by the Egyptian people who made him president.
Aboul Fotouh said that the presidential palace belongs to all the people and not to a specific person or group; it is not the president’s nor the Muslim Brotherhood’s. He called upon the president to be the leader of all Egyptians since it is thanks to them that he came to power. Other Islamists are also opposing Mursi, which shows that it is no longer the matter of Islamists and non-Islamists, but it is rather a political conflict.
This conflict is about basic issues like the constitution and the judiciary and therefore it can be resolved through modifying several articles in the constitution or revoking the Constitutional Declaration, which the president said he was ready to do. Failure to reach a compromise could be due to several reasons. It is possible that either the presidency or the opposition is not really willing to reach a resolution or does not have the proper tools to do. The standoff could also be attributed to lack of communication between the two camps as well as the absence of mutual trust, which makes each party believe that the other is attempting to trap it.
However, it seems that Mursi’s real problem is not the opposition, but his own party: the Muslim Brotherhood, which turned out to be running the presidency and interfering in the president’s decisions. Statements by Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme leader about an internal and external conspiracy against the group aggravated the matter and betrayed an attempt to evade the real problem. It was also obvious that Mursi realized too late that the Brotherhood entrapped him into issuing this declaration which constituted a violation of two important parts of his oath: the separation of powers and accountability. He had already had both presidential and legislative powers and wanted to take control of the judiciary and rendered his past and future decrees immunized.
He most likely realized the magnitude of his mistake after the streets of Egypt swarmed with protestors. He declared he was willing to retract through cancelling the declaration in return for having the constitution ratified in two months. But in an attempt to hurriedly fix one mistake, he made another when he tried to have the constitution’s final draft ready in two days in a gesture that demonstrated lack of diligence in a matter as important as this contract that constitutes the main reference of the people and the guarantor of their rights, both the majority and the minority.
The concept of the “majority” is in itself misinterpreted as it becomes obvious in both Egypt and Tunisia. The majority has the right to form a government if it wins, but it cannot impose its will on everyone. There is a huge difference between governance and government. The white majority in Britain, Germany, and the United States cannot bring back slavery or deprive women of their rights and the Christian majority cannot impose its religious rules on Muslim and Jewish minorities.
The majority can run public affairs in accordance with a fixed system and this is what the constitution is about: it is a fixed text that grants all people equal rights. This system is what distinguished between fascism and democracy because in the latter the state is managed through a system based on the balance of powers in a way that protects minorities and all the faction of which the society is made up.
The crisis in Egypt is getting more and more complicated even though the differences between the presidency and the opposition are not that deep whether in terms of the controversial articles of the constitution or the action of the president. All those are problems that can be solved through polls or compromises, but mistrust is a major obstacle and this is where prominent political players like Aboul Fotouh come in and mediate between the two parties.
(Abdul Rahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya. This article was first published on Dec. 9, 2012)