June 19, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 525

Chairman of the Egyptian Parliamentary Legislative Commission: 'We Do Not Need Any Democratic Change'

June 19, 2003
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 525

In an interview with Al-Ahram hebdo, [1] Muhammad Moussa, chairman of the Legislative Commission of the Egyptian Assembly of the People (Parliament) and member of the National Democratic Party (NDP), stated that Egypt does not need democratic reform or revision of its political system. The following are excerpts from the interview:

Al-Ahram hebdo: "Political reform is the watchword we hear in political circles. Do you think it is a necessary thing?"

Muhammad Moussa:"There is no reason for political reform in Egypt. Our country has adopted a political system similar to those of democratic countries all over the world. We have a constitution, an assembly of the people [parliament], a consultative council, an executive power, an independent judiciary power. What is meant by political reform? I would like to know the meaning of that phrase! What is its purpose? What is it we are lacking that we are asked to implement such reform?"

Q: "But it was the state's own initiative when it decided on a few measures…"

Moussa:"The NDP has indeed drafted a bill to abolish the state security courts and the hard labor sentence. But these, as such, were never implemented in Egypt. This term could suggest that there is a system by which prisoners are forced to do hard labor. Also the state security courts are going to be dismissed, while their judges will now sit in regular courts. [But] there is no actual change - only the names will change."

Q: "Is there a democratic culture in Egypt that could enhance reform?"

Moussa:"Why use big names? We have freedom and democracy based on elections that are monitored by the judiciary. The citizens are perfectly free to vote. Thus, the 2,000 elections took place under the supervision of judges in every voting commission."

"As for democratic culture, let me remind you that freedom of expression exists [in Egypt]. Every opinion is expressed in the national and opposition press. The national press isn't prevented from publishing critical views. We are granted political freedom as well as an effective parliament whose members represent almost all parties."

Q: "Do we play America's game when we talk of democracy nowadays?"

Moussa:"The United States has nothing to do with this. No one tells us what to do. Everything we do is in the interest of Egypt and according to its wish for reform. No foreign state, however powerful, can dictate conditions to us. Our policies aren't based on Washington. We enjoy the kind of freedom other states are deprived of. One shouldn't endorse the views of a few ill-meaning minds."

Q: "Do you believe we need constitutional changes?" Moussa: "The Egyptian constitution is one of the best in the world. Many states would like to have such a constitution. We have a multi-party system. Maybe this isn't as apparent as it should be within the assembly of the people and elsewhere, since the political parties have no presence in public opinion. They should play an effective role so that the citizens can feel it. The problem lies with the political trends, not with the constitution."

[1] Al-Ahram hebdo (Egypt), May 28–June 3, 2003.

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