Cairo, Egypt – Amr Darrag is a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood and the last minister of planning in now-deposed president Mohamed Morsi’s government. He was also the secretary-general of the constituent assembly, which last year drafted Egypt’s now-suspended constitution.
In an interview at his home in the Egyptian capital, Darrag talked about the prospects for reconciliation, the Brotherhood’s political failings, and whether Morsi must return to office to resolve the political crisis.
Al Jazeera: What sorts of reconciliation talks are taking place between the Brotherhood and the military?
Amr Darrag: I don’t think any reconciliation can take place under the umbrella of a military coup.
How can there be any reconciliation? It has to be between equivalent partners, totally free partners, and while our leaders are in jail, we are subject to arrest warrants, many of our leaders had their bank accounts frozen, our TV channels are shut down – what kind of reconciliation can there be? It’s like you put a gun to someone’s head and asked for reconciliation.
AJ: If there are no talks, and protests continue indefinitely, doesn’t that set up a conflict between the Brotherhood and the state?
AD: There is already a conflict, how can you describe what is happening? They will shoot us more, fine, jail more people, fine, kill more people, fine. This is how revolutions are made and protected.
Nobody during the 25th of January revolution, thought about that, but the main difference at that time was all Egyptians were united behind a certain specific goal, to get rid of the Mubarak and the old regime.
This didn’t happen. Mubarak went away, temporarily, but the old regime stayed, kept working, kept making plots, planning for this moment. A lot of the Egyptians do not realize that yet, but eventually they will.
AJ: Is it realistic to think that Morsi can come back to power?
AD: It is not the issue of Morsi. We have legitimacy … it’s not just the president. We have the president, the constitution, the Shura Council, the parliament – this is an elected body – the constitution, approved by the people … it was approved by the majority according to democratic rules.
So it’s not just the president. It is the overall system of the democratic path. Even if we accept that the president is not back by de facto, this is it. How can we accept that the constitution is suspended? Who has the power to suspend the constitution and the Shura Council that was elected by the people?
Of course the president was also elected by the people, but of course some people might argue we don’t like the president, he failed. This is not justification for a military coup, this never happens, otherwise we would have coups everywhere in the world because everyone is not satisfied with the performance of their leaders. We would have a military coup every day, everywhere.
But to be realistic, maybe it is not very easy for the president to continue. So that’s why we are open to any suggestion, once he is back. He can come back and then quit, he can call for a referendum, he can call for early presidential elections, whatever.
But the problem is not the president. The problem is that the old regime, assisted by the military, are trying to bring the old regime back to power. That’s why they are stopping everything and trying to start from scratch until God only knows when.
AJ: Are you suggesting that Morsi doesn’t need to return to power?
AD: Now what we are after is not the president, again, not the FJP [Freedom and Justice Party]. We are after legitimacy.
Maybe he’s back for one minute. And we have some sort of agreement that he’s back and the first decision is to resign. Fine.
He has to be back, he must be back, but then anything can happen. Maybe he’s back for one minute. And we have some sort of agreement that he’s back and the first decision is to resign. Fine.
Or the first decision is to call for elections, or a referendum, or whatever is agreed upon. It’s not the personality of the president or the person himself who matters anymore – it’s not important even to be in the picture.
What concerns us more right now is the democratic path. Number one is to restore democracy, because once there is democracy, there is an expression of the will of the people.
President, Shura Council, constitution. In light of that, we can agree on the president, whatever can happen will happen. But we have to fix a time for parliamentary elections, this is very important, to have a parliament – we can discuss whether to have presidential elections before or after – we can agree on a committee or a mechanism to propose changes to the constitution… this has been proposed from day one.
AJ: Doesn’t much of the country seem to be moving on? There’s an interim president, a timetable for elections…
AD: We do believe that this will not be reality, based on a lot of evidence, and on history. They always announce an interim period of six months and it never happens. They will always find excuses to delay things, make up violent actions, whatever, the country is not ready, we have a bad economy, a lot of things, excuses can be given in order to delay this.
How can we contribute while we are being dismantled? Our leaders are in jail, from day one – the chairman of our party, two hours after the announcement, he was thrown into jail without any crime, with ridiculous charges. I don’t know how this can continue. Many others are being chased, bank accounts frozen, and definitely this will increase, because if I were in their place, I would have done everything to make sure that those people are dismantled before elections take place.
We know for sure the arrests will continue, we will be run after, charged with terrorism, demonized in front of the people, and this will continue without having any means to defend ourselves, other than international media.
So in this capacity it’s very clear, the intention is clearly to push us away from the scene, and we will never allow this to happen.
AJ: The popular narrative last year is that Morsi wrestled power from the military. The events of the last few weeks suggest that wasn’t true.
AD: We’ve been telling people that we don’t have control, and people didn’t believe us. We’ve always been accused of the ikhwanization of the state, controlling the bones and joints and everything, spreading our people everywhere … But nothing collapsed, there was nothing, there was no control to collapse.
We’ve always been accused of the ikhwanization of the state … but there was nothing, there was no control to collapse.
We tried our best, having a minister here, a governor there, some employees, to make some achievement with a lot of power against us, a lot of deep state resisting what we’re trying to do. Gradually we’ve been trying to clear things up.
We acknowledged that it isn’t good to clear everything at once, because this could mean the failure of the state, so we took a more gradual approach, but we were not in control at all. The president had maybe 25 percent control, but not more than that, and the control he had related to his power of legitimacy, rather than physical power.
The security forces, the police force was totally against him, not protecting, not doing what it should be doing, the military was concentrating on building the military establishment itself, they were not interfering on the surface, but the judiciary was totally against us, and that was repeatedly proven, of course the media all the time, and the deep state.
So that has always been the case. It did not collapse or change anything. This coup succeeded because we did not really have that much control.
AJ: You’re complaining now about holding elections under military rule. But when SCAF pushed for parliamentary elections in November 2011, with ongoing street battles in downtown Cairo, the Brotherhood supported them.
AD: SCAF set a road map that was accepted by everybody in Egypt, so it was not us who accepted this, it was the Egyptian people, through a referendum in March. Seventy-eight percent said yes, 22 percent said no, so that was the real road map, and the elections should have taken place six months after the 25th of January, not later than that.
We always said the only way to restore democracy and finish the transition as soon as possible was to have elections. This was always our position, and always will be, because we are a pro-democratic force. If we refuse to have elections, what can we do? We remain in chaos all the time?
Elections are the only way for the people to establish their own representatives, and their representatives establish governance, and if the people don’t like it then they change the government. This is how democracy works.