What do the protesters want and how many of them are there?
Today’s position of the square can be considered as an extension of what happened yesterday and during the whole of last week following the constitutional declaration. It is occupied daily by thousands of protesters and revolutionaries representing all the currents of political action in Egypt, with of course the exception of the Brothers and the political Islam movements. But the value of what is happening today and what happened yesterday with protests by one million people is that the Egyptians have regained January’s revolutionary spirit, with all the will to oppose and challenge the authoritarian and self- referential method with which the Muslim Brothers are leading Egypt. I think that we are before an end of regime scene and not one of the beginning of a regime.
All the regimes in the world begin by replying in some way to the demands of the people, realising national interests and insisting on the fact that they are on the majority’s side. Instead here the opposite is happening.
Therefore the people think that the government is not realising their demands?
When regimes become authoritarian, dictatorial and liberticidal they have reached the end, not the beginning. We are before an epilogue and not a prologue. The great Egyptian people has become aware of the mistakes made in the January revolution when it left the square, delivering the fruits of the revolution into the hands of the organisation most skilled in manoeuvring and most capable of creating alliances in and outside Egypt.
This was the first mistake of the January revolution. But were there any others?
Yes. There was the mistake of the would-be political union and the differences between the elite and the revolutionaries, which harmed the state and the revolution together. Now I can say that Mursi’s decisions and the measures and declarations of the Muslim Brothers have unified all the Egyptians and have reunited all the groups against Mursi and his whole entourage.
What did president Mursi say about the protests? Has he pulled back slightly with respect to his project or does he continue to support it?
President Mursi still insists with the constitutional declaration that gives him divine rights. His group repeats the slogan ‘No retreat and no surrender’. Instead, the Egyptian society in all its communities, civil society, political parties and institutions is opposed to the declaration. This was what triggered a state of civil disobedience in different parts of the country.
But isn’t there the danger that this fight might end in armed conflict and violence? Or is a political solution still possible?
The revolutionaries’ claims and approach is always one of peaceful protest. Among the Egyptians participating in the public protest there is nobody connected with violence or who has been trained to carry out violent actions or to take part in them. Nonetheless it is known that historically, politically and at an organisational level the political Islam movements, the Brothers in the first place, are movements that have taken up armed violence in a number of stages of their life.
Now there is a simple reaction to the police repression or to the attacks of sectors of political Islam among the revolutionaries.
How do you see the position of the American government and the decision by the International Monetary Fund to give aid to Egypt despite the present political situation? Isn’t this a strange decision?
Of course we have never sided with the Americans, either before the revolution or after it. The United States are now onlookers. They have adopted a position in which what is happening in Egypt is a purely internal question; the last declaration made by the American Foreign Secretary was to this effect. It is a position of who apparently observes as a neutral spectator but in fact backs the Muslim Brothers. And this confirms the nature of our constant divergence with the American viewpoint, which backs Israel on the one hand and authoritarian regimes on the other, which condemns its strategy in the region to failure. We had hoped that America would come out with a declaration or a communiqué in support of the millions of protesters in the squares of freedom in Egypt, if it is actually serious when it backs democracy and the freedom of peoples. But this was not so.
Not yet. You said that all the political parties except the Brothers and Islamist movements are represented in the protest. Who is it precisely that is protesting?
The Egyptian Popular Current, the Democratic Egyptian Party, the Revolution continues Alliance, the Socialist Coalition, the Dignity Party, the Nasserist Party, April 6 Youth Movement, the Socialists, the Kifâya (Enough) Movement, the Independent Syndicates Union. In the square yesterday there was also the liberal right movement, that is the Wafd Party, and the National Party and al-Baradei’s Constitution Party.
And what about ʿAbd al-Muʿim Abû l-Futûh, the Brothers’ candidate who left the movement?
He was not there. He issued a communiqué in which he approves the text of the Constitutional Declaration and applauds free Egypt ...but he was not present.
Is the government thinking of a way out?
Some of Mursi’s advisors who involved him in this question of the declaration are trying to find him a way out but each time they fail owing to their poor technical ability on the one hand and to their desire to give the president absolute powers on the other. Every time they have to pull back. While the main demand was to remove the constitutional declaration, yesterday the square aimed higher and wanted the removal of the president. The situation is ripe for general civil disobedience as a protest against the absolute powers that the president has granted himself.
In Tunisia in the past and I think also in Egypt, there was a division between the elite, the vanguard and the people, the ordinary folk. Are people, suffering as they are from the difficult economic situation, really taking an interest in these political issues or are they too taken up with the hardships of daily life?
This was true in the period before the fall of Mubarak but now popular participation in Egypt has grown. As a people, the Egyptians desire to take part in the political decision-making process which has become the daily engine of the revolt. The question of freedom is of prime importance in Egypt, more than that of bread. It is a new factor in the political logic of today’s Egypt.