The Middle East Channel
Interview with Mustafa El-Gindy
Mustafa el-Gindy, a former independent member of the Egyptian parliament and current member of the opposition, sits down with Middle East Channel Co-Editor Amjad Atallah to discuss the ongoing developments in Egypt, including what the opposition is demanding from the Mubarak regime FP’s Middle East Channel: I wanted to ask you right off the bat: ...
Mustafa el-Gindy, a former independent member of the Egyptian parliament and current member of the opposition, sits down with Middle East Channel Co-Editor Amjad Atallah to discuss the ongoing developments in Egypt, including what the opposition is demanding from the Mubarak regime
FP’s Middle East Channel: I wanted to ask you right off the bat: What is happening right now with the opposition? What exists on the ground right now?
Mustafa el-Gindy: The opposition got united after the elections and had a big decision that they would boycott the elections of the parliament. That was the first time they were united…Today they are united, they had a big meeting together…all the parties: the Muslim Brotherhood, Kefaya, 6th of April. They came out with their demands: Mubarak goes; to save the country immediately: a new constitution, a new parliament, a new senate, and elections. Fair elections.
FP: President Mubarak has appointed Omar Suleiman, his long time intelligence chief, to be the Vice President of Egypt. And a lot of American diplomats…who are hoping for as much as the status quo to preserve as possible, are hoping that this will be acceptable. Do you think that Omar Suleiman, as the next President of Egypt, will be acceptable to the opposition?
MG: I don’t think that he will be accepted by the opposition. They announced it already that they want Mubarak out –all his regime out — that they want to negotiate directly with the army because he has the power now…We are not negotiating because Omar Suleiman asked us to come and negotiate with him. Today [February 1st], the answer came: ‘No, we are not negotiating with you. We are negotiating with the army. We are not negotiating with the regime of Hosni Mubarak.’
FP: You have in the opposition party groups ranging from secular leftists to the Muslim Brotherhood. Do they have an agreement? Are they coalesced around a vision for the political future of Egypt?
MG: Yes for the first time, they got united…for one thing: Change. An immediate change …the nation wants to change the regime. That’s what they are calling in the street.
FP: In the United States obviously there’s always a lot of concern when one of the autocrats that we’ve supported for a very long time is replaced. Can you tell us more about your vision for what Egypt looks like one month after the opposition? If everything goes according to the opposition’s plan, what does Egypt look like one month from now? Two months from now? Three months from now?
MG: It will look like Turkey. With a Prime Minister elected between the people and parties and a President, and a very strong Army to serve the constitution and the respect of the constitution — and the respect of all the international agreements.
FP: So when you said respect for all international agreements, is that code for continuing to respect the peace treaty with Israel?
MG: Of course we will continue to respect the peace treaty with Israel, but we will listen more to the people in the street. Maybe we will ask them [Israel] to real peace. The reality is that for the last 30 years there was no real peace with Israel. There was peace between Mubarak and them, but there was no peace between the nation of Egypt and the Israelis. And if we become elected and come with democracy I think a nation with democracy can talk to another nation with democracy. I’m sure the Israelis want to live in peace; like the Egyptians, like the Palestinians.
FP: Has the United States government reached out in any way or form that you know of to the opposition coalition?
MG: I think that after they sent Mr. Wisner to Egypt, who was an old Ambassador of America in Egypt…who knows Egypt very well…he will talk with us and we will give him the same message…: ‘We want Mubarak and his regime out, we want a new constitution, we want new elections, and a really parliamentary democratic republic — like Turkey, like Israel, like England, like all other countries…We want the army strong, but we want our democracy…like here in the United States. Why do you want it for yourself and you don’t want it for us…?
FP: How do people in Egypt see the United States right now?
MG: For the time being…they are disappointed [with] the position of the United States. The people in the streets listened to Obama when he came to Egypt and he said America will always support the choice of the people. Now the choice of the people is to change Mubarak and his regime; to get democracy. Why don’t we hear the President and the administration here saying: ‘we are with freedom, we are with the nation, we are with democracy’? Why are they almost saying ‘we prefer dictatorship in Egypt’…What’s happening now in Egypt, it will happen in a lot of countries later on if we do not come with a model accepted by the street in the third world…we will have a catastrophe and this catastrophe will go everywhere. Everybody is waiting to see what will happen in Egypt. Let’s satisfy the nation by giving them democracy….
FP: Why do you think that the Muslim brotherhood has not attempted to lead these demonstrations, to take a leading…
MG: …they can’t because on the ground they do not represent [the people]…I remember in the [previous] election when I went to the delta, the countryside, where the Muslim Brotherhood got all their power. It was me, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hosni Mubarak. I got 80% of the vote; the Muslim Brotherhood got 10% and Mubarak got 10%…The Egyptian people, if they have the choice, will go for the middle. We are not a nation of extremes; we are a nation of the middle. That’s even our religion. It tells us that ‘you are the people of the middle.’ Our history says so.
FP: One last question, is there a general conception of Egypt’s place in the world that you think is shared by the opposition coalition? In the past, Egypt, under Gamal Abdel Nasser, was the center of the Arab world and Arab nationalism. Under Sadat it was Egypt first, a very Egyptian-based nationalism. Is there a vision of Egypt, and Egypt’s place in the world, that you believe is shared across the coalition of opposition parties?
MG: A real democratic Egypt, where the people will choose their leaders, like you have here in the United States…like you in the countries who took their road and right path. We want the right path. We think democracy is our only way out and it’s your only way out in the United States or in Europe. Democracy in our country means you will ally the nation, not a man…Choose between the nation and the man.
FP: Thank you very much.