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I trust that Sherif Ismail will leave his post by August: Al-Moghazy - Daily News Egypt

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I trust that Sherif Ismail will leave his post by August: Al-Moghazy

I was not given a real chance, says former assistant to the prime minister

Since partaking in the 25 January Revolution five years ago, Abdallah Al-Moghazy has gathered what is perhaps the most unique collection of positions under his belt for someone in his position.

He has served as a member of the Advisory Council for the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), a member of parliament in 2012, the Al-Wafd Party’s spokesman, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi presidential campaign’s spokesman, and lastly, assistant to the Prime Minster under both Ibrahim Mehleb and Sherif Ismail.

Daily News Egypt spoke to Al-Moghazy last week, after ending his contracted period for his post as assistant to the prime minister – whereas it is customary for this period to be renewed, Al-Moghazy and his colleague Hisham Fahmy’s were not.

In the interview, Al-Moghazy discussed his experience in that post and previous experiences, providing a forecast on the future of the cabinet. He further discussed the current media portrayal of the 25 January Revolution, and the state’s approach to the youth and their issues.

Five years ago, you were not on the political scene. How do you evaluate your political experience now?

I am one of the youth of the revolution, and I still take pride in this, despite the fact that we are in a time when the 25 January Revolution is viewed as a ‘conspiracy’. I nonetheless insist that it is a respected revolution, but that people with ‘special agendas’ distorted the revolution, such as the [Muslim] Brotherhood and some youth groups who were referred to as revolutionaries at the time.

I want us to re-watch old footage and see those who praised the revolution and spoke of the ‘pure’ youth, and compare this to how they view it now.

I was a member of the General Union for the Revolution Youth, a union that gathered 38 coalitions formed during the revolution, and its executive office. From this position, I was recommended to [Advisory Council to] SCAF. Following mounting pressure on SCAF in light of its decisions that did not take in account political sentiment, an assisting council was formed, which became the Advisory Council.

From the Advisory Council, I was then recommended to be among those appointed to parliament by SCAF, as part of the quota allocated for appointment by the president. After this, between April and May 2012, El-Sayed El-Badawi [the Al-Wafd Party’s president] spoke to me about joining Al-Wafd, and I became a spokesman for the party. I stayed in Al-Wafd until the 30 June revolution.

Two months after 30 June, disagreements emerged. The party was part of the opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, and I had serious objections towards [Mohamed] El-Baradei, who was the leader of the front then, and later became Egypt’s vice president. I had reservations regarding his stances.

Daily News Egypt met with Al-Moghazy to discuss his experience in past five years Sherif Ismail’s cabinet was sworn in on 19 September 2015 Ahmed Hendawy Presidency handout Ahmed  (Photo by Ahmed Hendawy)
Daily News Egypt met with Al-Moghazy to discuss his experience in past five years
Sherif Ismail’s cabinet was sworn in on 19 September 2015
Ahmed Hendawy
Presidency handout
(Photo by Ahmed Hendawy)

What was your main objection to El-Baradei’s stances?

I believed that he was allowing Europeans to enter Egypt [after the ouster of the Brotherhood regime] and visit the Brotherhood leaders and members. I sensed this was a backdoor to foreign intervention. Based on this, some countries started to impose sanctions, even before the Rabaa Al-Adaweya dispersal.

I resigned from the party days before the dispersal. After the dispersal and El-Baradei’s stance, the party issued statements that were even harsher than mine and they even spoke to me, asking me to reconsider my resignation, but I insisted on my position.

This was perhaps one of the things that encouraged the president [Al-Sisi] to include me on his campaign.

The final step was becoming assistant to former prime minister Ibrahim Mehleb. When Mehleb thought of appointing assistants, his idea was to appoint assistants to ministers. I suggested the idea to appoint assistants for the prime minister.

The 25 January Revolution is under intense media attack, and we have even seen some parliamentarians condemn it. What are your views on this?

I am not as aggravated by these attacks as many are. Just look at those who attacks the revolution in the media and you can see who they work for. For instance, Sada Al-Balad channel – who owns it? Mohamed Abo El-Einein, one of the [former] NDP leaders. All of those who attack 25 January are beneficiaries of the former regime.

How does the state view the youth of the revolution?

The state has to recognise that there is a serious problem between it and the youth. One of the main problems is that the president’s advisors advised him to meet with the “good youth”, and to avoid the “bad youth”. So [the president] meets with media personnel and entrepreneurs, and this is good, but the youth who revolted were not among those. The youth who ignited the revolution were mostly the politicised youth.

Those youth were dragged into a trap by the media, which is owned by and benefited from the former regime, and this led to them being defamed.

I am not saying that the president should not meet with journalists, media personnel or entrepreneurs. I hope he meets with and listens to all the youth across the spectrum, and the most important of these are the politicised youth.

Five years after the revolution and two years after 30 June, we are still seeing the same headlines: prices hikes, unemployment on the rise, and so on. What is your view on this?

These problems do not face Egypt alone, they exist worldwide. There is a spectre of global recession looming everywhere. The most important gain after the revolution is that the country has been kept intact, and it is the people who made this happen. The people stood by national institutions to help safeguard the country.

What comes next? What is the government and the presidency’s plan for the advancement of this country?

The executive branch of this regime is divided between the government and the presidency. We have a president who is aware of the issues and problems Egypt is facing, and he has solutions. On the other hand, we have a government that works according to the mentality of a public sector employee.

One of the biggest problems we have faced in Egypt since the 25 January Revolution is that most of the ministers appointed by different governments were technocrats. And most of those, unfortunately, were not the best technocrats. Sometimes it was a matter of promoting [minister’s] undersecretaries or heads of companies. Even the current Prime Minister Sherif Ismail was the head of public sector company.

Most of those behind the scenes of the decision making process and I were surprised by the appointment of Ismail as prime minister.  I thought then it would be temporary until parliament convenes, but then we discovered that he is going to continue. However, I trust that he will leave his post by next July to August.

Is it an issue regarding selection? Is it not the case that technocrats should be in government?

From my perspective, what we have is a situation of ministers who behave as employees, and this type of officials is accustomed to receiving instructions, but does not create or innovate. The difference between ministers who behave as employees and those who behave as politicians is that the latter has the ability to innovate and create solutions, in addition to having a philosophy.

Even when it comes to statements, a politician’s statements to the media are measured according to the reactions they would create and their effects. The employee ministers do not have a vision, and their statements are short-sighted.

Look at the Minister [of Investment, Ashraf Salman’s] statements – one of his statements created a serious spike in the dollar price against the pound.

Whose responsibility is it?

The cabinet that appointed them.

And who appointed the cabinet as well?

I do not deny the president’s responsibility. Certainly, the president will be questioned regarding his choices. But, as I said, the president has a vision, dreams, ambitions and popular support… an example of this is the New Suez Canal project. The popular financial support for the project reflected the political support.

But from an analyst’s point of view, there are mega projects planned and implemented but they do not fall under an overarching policy.

Are the president’s choices influences by a lack of options, or perhaps by his reliance on the army when in need?

The president was called to the post, he did not nominate himself. When he was called upon, he promptly studied the available options, with the army in mind as the engine to implement his vision. He previously asked the people to be patient with him, and I hope that by next June, when two years have elapsed of his presidency, he will have fully assessed the situation so the citizen can feel change.

This is my political forecast: next summer, there will be major changes on the ministerial and gubernatorial level. This might also be preceded by a minor change. According to the MPs’ plans – and most of them are friends of mine – when the government presents its programme to the parliament, a majority will demand the shuffling of six or seven ministers.

How do you evaluate your experience as assistant to the prime minister?

My colleague Hisham Fahmy [another assistant to the prime minister] and I have been following up on 20 issues, the most notable of which were the lowest-income villages nationwide. I was also assisting on the butane gas cylinders issue, as I followed up with the Minister of Petroleum on the issue. You can easily notice that this is the first winter in years in which Egyptians do not face a crisis obtaining cylinders.

Prime Minister Ismail did not sit with us to listen to our vision and ideas. There was also a feud between us and the cabinet’s secretary general. He demanded that we hand over reports to him, although our responsibility was to report directly to the prime minister, and the prime minister made this clear to him.

After all, Fahmy and I were thanked for our efforts. As for the other two assistants, one of them who was following up on only one issue remains in his post, while the other was appointed as the secretary general’s assistant.

You worked under both Mehleb and Ismail. How were the two experiences different?

Mehleb worked according to an ‘always present’ philosophy. I told him previously that I believe the prime minister is the brain of the government; he thinks and plans while ministers apply, but he always believed that he needs to be present himself.

Whether you agree or disagree with him, the man was the first to introduce the idea of appointing young assistants to the prime minister. Ismail was expected to continue this tradition and build on it.

Despite what happened, I am thankful to the president and to Mehleb for the experience and for allowing us the opportunity to work, even though it was not long enough or completed.

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