Egypt Independent

Naguib Sawiris interview (Part II): Postponing elections until after Ramadan a disaster, Ezz had green light to run in elections

In the second part of the interview with Naguib Sawiris, the business tycoon talked about the outcome of the Sharm el-Sheikh economic conference and analyzed the political problems between the state and the youth.
Sawiris also talked about the parliamentary elections and said the Free Egyptians Party will not be an opposition party, calling for people to line up behind President Abdel Fattah Sisi due to the circumstances the country is facing.
He suggested politicians and law experts be included in the committee that is reformulating the election laws after the Supreme Constitutional Court cancelled them.
The business tycoon also said that an electoral alliance is a waste of time, adding that some parties exaggerate their strength and weight in the Egyptian streets.
With regards to the Nour Party and other religious parties, Sawiris said they should not be disbanded because they would then work secretly, like the Muslim Brotherhood.
He exposed those who support the Muslim Brotherhood in Washington and explained why the United States changed its opinion of the group after it came to power.
Q: What do you make of the outcome of the economic conference?
A: First of all, the organization and the securing of the conference were excellent. Frankly, it was an honor to all Egyptians. The turnout was huge and the participants were very important personalities, such as Mohamed al-Erian and many others.
I am confident that just as we are able to combat terrorism, we are able to defeat poverty and unemployment. I will focus on investing in projects that yield social returns.
Q: Were Gulf investments as expected?
A: More than expected. The continued support of the Gulf will give our economy a strong boost. We need to form a team to follow up with investors and work on solving any problems they would face.
Q: What do you think of the closing speech of President Sisi?
A: It was a coronation. Like all of us, President Sisi looked very pleased.
Q: A certain newspaper claimed that you had an argument with the ministers of investment and planning on the second day of the conference. Is that true?
A: Those ministers work hard, but they need to involve the youth because the second rows of the ministries’ administrations consist of bureaucrats that have been around for 30 years. We are in a new era that requires new and creative ideas. 
Q: There is talk of a problem between President Sisi and the youth. Is that true?
A: Yes, it is because the people around the president belong to the old school that was before the 25 January revolution. Also, many of the young people have weakened their cause by pursuing it in illegal ways, such as breaking the pivotal protest law. They also used obscene language in their slogans, which contradicts the traditions of the community.
Q: Do you think there is a trend against the 25 January revolution?
A: There are those who are fed up with the 25 January revolution for the deteriorating political and economic conditions it has caused. Some of them were close to the Mubarak regime, but the majority was not.
Q: Do think the United States is displeased with President Sisi’s visits to Russia?
A: I hope so. I personally cannot accept anyone telling me how to run the country.
Q: Do you think the United States still pressures Egypt to reconcile with the Muslim Brotherhood?
A: Yes, but I ask the Americans what should we do if somebody is carrying a bomb and coming to kill us? And why did the Americans not reconcile with bin Laden?
Q: When will this problem be resolved. Is it related to Obama?
A:  I do not know when this will end. Obama is finished anyway. The members of his party are voting against his resolutions in Congress.
Q: Are you shocked by their attitude towards Egypt?
A: I am shocked by their support of the Muslim Brotherhood. I said this to John Kerry and Chuck Hagel before they became ministers. They agreed with me, but changed their attitude after they assumed office. I believe the real supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood are Obama and Rice.
Q: What about the parliamentary elections. Will the Free Egyptians Party reconsider joining the “For the Love of Egypt” list?
A: Honestly, the Free Egyptians Party does not want to constrain President Sisi’s work. The political and economic situation cannot afford conflict. We are with the president even if he makes a mistake. We must line up behind him. But we have reservations on the list and on some of the personalities included in it.
Q: What do you think of allegations that the government supports the list and that it was the security services that formed it?
A: This is partially true.
Q: Do you spend money on the list?
A: No.
Q: Would the Free Egyptians Party be the party of the President?
A: I am against ​​the president having a party because he would thereby antagonize all other parties. Sisi needs no party. He won the elections by 93 percent, an unprecedented victory.
Q: Is the Free Egyptians Party an opposition party or not?
A: It is not. We do not oppose for the sake of opposition as long as the President is making sound decisions.
Q: Why did it not join the list of the Wafd Party, and for how long will the civil forces remain fragmented?
A: The concept of uniting the political and civil forces is wrong. Parties compete to win voter confidence. Alliances are a waste of time. Also, some parties exaggerate their weight in the Egyptian streets. 
Q: Some claim the Free Egyptians Party is running individually because of the problems it had with the previous Egyptian Bloc alliance. Is this true?
A: The smart learn from their mistakes.
Q: What do you say to allegations that you want to acquire the whole parliament and form the government?
A: Nonsense. We are only competing for 200 seats out of 600 seats. Our approach is democratic.
Q: What do you say to allegations that the party depends on the support of the church and the deputies of the disbanded National Democratic Party (NDP)?
A: Whoever claims so is trying to justify beforehand why he will lose the elections. There is no such thing as the support of the church. It is the church that needs support. And not all NDP deputies were corrupt.
Q: Do you think the next parliament will include NDP deputies?
A: By a large percentage. The point is to avoid their corruption. 
Q: Some have nominated former interim President Adli Mansour for parliamentary speaker. What do you think?
A: There is no specific person in my mind that I support directly, but Adli Mansour is a man of the law. He managed the transitional period successfully. He is suitable for the post by all means. He is wise and he is accepted by all political parties and forces.
Q: What do you think of the controversy that was triggered when Ahmed Ezz, the former NDP organization secretary, decided to run in the elections?
A: I think he had a green light because he is too smart to decide such a thing alone.
Q: But he was denied the candidacy?
A: In Egypt, the traffic policeman can make you cross the red light.
Q: How about the Salafis in the next parliament?
A: They have a 5 to 10 percent chance. 
Q: Why was their party not disbanded whereas they declared it a religious party?
A: I am against disbanding the Nour Party, albeit a religious party that is banned by the Constitution, because this might prompt its members to work secretly like the Muslim Brotherhood.
Q: Why did the invalidation of the laws on exercising political rights and on electoral districting cause so much confusion?
A: The legislative reform committee should have consulted the political parties before devising those laws. The Free Egyptians Party had warned that banning candidates of dual nationality from voting violates the Constitution. We also had reservations on the districting process. We want laws whose constitutionality would not later be challenged. 
Q: Was the invalidation done on purpose?
A: I do not know.
Q: When will the parliamentary elections take place?
A: We are not punctual people. It would be a disaster if the elections are postponed until after Ramadan. And I hoped to see jurists and politicians in the committee preparing the election laws.
Q: Will a postponement impact the economic conference?
A: Of course.
Q: Do you support amending the Constitution after the election of the House of Representatives?
A: No.
Q: Some believe the powers of Parliament crowd out those of the President. What do you think?
A: What is better? That 600 people review the president's decisions or that he takes them alone? Parliament would never hamper a good decision taken by the president. We do not want to go back to Mubarak whose decisions nobody discussed.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm