CAIRO: Arab League Secretary General and presidential hopeful Amr Moussa was put in the hot seat Tuesday as he faced a wave of criticism and tough questions from attendees of a symposium at the Sawy Cultural Wheel.
The symposium was held to discuss Egypt’s transitional phase with regards to reform and democracy.
Moussa admitted saying on a program on Mehwar TV before the Jan. 25 Revolution that he would vote for ousted president Hosni Mubarak in the 2011 Presidential elections.
Moussa explained that at the time, Article 76 of the constitution only allowed Mubarak and his son to run in the presidential elections, and he believed that the father was the better choice.
He however denied asking protesters in Tahrir to leave before Mubarak stepped down, saying he merely rejected their calls for “the fall of certain figures” and called on people to chant “Long live Egypt.”
When Moussa’s credibility was questioned since he was a prominent figure of the former regime for so many years, he said his record and his achievements as foreign minister prove that he was loyal to serving Egypt not government officials.
Moussa was Egypt’s foreign minister for 10 years until 2001, before he became the Arab League’s secretary general.
As foreign minister, Moussa was an outspoken advocate for Palestinian
rights as Egypt played a leading role in the Middle East peace process.
His popularity was widely assumed to be the reason Mubarak removed him from the foreign ministry in 2001.
Moussa also defended the role of the Arab League saying that in the last 10 years, the Arab League achieved a lot in terms of strengthening Arab relations with the world and in solving many regional issues.
“The leaders of all parties in Iraq gathered for the first time in the Arab League in Cairo,” Moussa said. “And if there wasn’t an international and regional policy not to resolve the [sectarian strife] in Iraq, it would’ve been resolved in 2005.”
Regarding the current situation in Libya, Moussa said that the Arab League froze Libya’s membership.
“This is the first time in Arab League history that a country’s membership is frozen due to its [leader’s] violence against his people.” Moussa said.
He added that an emergency meeting was held with the Security Council and the African Union to discuss necessary procedures to solve the Libyan crisis.
Moussa said the Muslim Brotherhood should have the freedom to participate in the political arena and the people are at liberty to decide whether to support them or not.
Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Moussa stressed that Israel is in fact a state and should be acknowledged, but rejected its policies against the Palestinians.
Moussa condemned the separation wall in Palestine and said the Palestinians should have an independent state with Jerusalem as their capital.
Moussa started the symposium by dedicating a minute for the martyrs who were killed during Egypt’s revolution.
“I’m not here to campaign for myself, I’m here to talk to the people and listen to their views regarding [this transitional period],” Moussa said.
Moussa said that he would only run for one term, which is equivalent to four years, “Egypt’s president has to know that he will rule for a limited period of time not until his last pulse,” he said.
Moussa said that the new elected president’s first responsibility should be the drafting of a new constitution.
He added that the military should introduce amendments limiting the authorities of the president in addition to the proposed constitutional amendments.
“The president shouldn’t have absolute power and authority over the people,” Moussa said.
Moussa explained that a committee representing different members of the community including doctors, engineers, Muslim scholars, Copts and women should be formed under the new president’s reign to draft a new constitution.
An elected constituent assembly would then revise and discuss the new constitution within one or two months and approve it.
On Feb. 13, the military suspended the constitution, forming a committee of legal experts a few days later to amend a number of articles.
A referendum on the constitutional amendments is scheduled to take place on March 19. These amendments allow independent presidential candidates to run in the coming presidential elections and allow judicial supervision over the elections.
The amendments also put the responsibility of drafting a new constitution on the shoulders of the new elected parliament.
The elected parliament must appoint a 100-member constituent assembly to draft a new constitution within six months of its appointment, according to the proposed amendments.
The new constitution would be approved by a referendum within 15 days of its completion without any interference from the upcoming president.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in June to be followed by a presidential election six weeks later.
However Moussa said he believed that the presidential elections should be held before the parliamentary elections to give political parties the opportunity to develop and prepare their political programs.
“I’m not suggesting we clash [with the army],” Moussa said. “I’m suggesting we have a discussion with the whole community on what’s in Egypt’s best interest.”
Regarding turning Egypt into a Parliamentary State, Moussa said he believed Egypt should remain a Presidential State for the next 10 years because the political parties aren’t powerful enough to rule the country through parliament.
Moussa also called for the removal of the emergency law and the respect and implementation of court verdicts.
Regarding the State Security apparatus, Moussa said it shouldn’t be completely dismantled, but should be reshuffled to cleanse it from the corruption which dominated it under the former regime.