Turkish PM Erdogan refuses meeting with Egypt VP ElBaradei, as liberal opposition remains silent over undemocratic practices of military rule
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
It seems that the dust has settled in Egypt. The political reality is now being cemented, with interim leaders in place and the military ruling the country.
And now joining us to discuss all this is Mohamed ElMeshad. Mohamed is a Cairo-based independent journalist who wrote for Egypt Independent for two years. Thanks for joining us, Mohamed.
MOHAMED ELMESHAD, INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST: Thanks, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: So, Mohamed, can you just describe for us what you’re seeing there on the ground?
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ELMESHAD: Well, there’s a continuation of protests near the the [rabad@’weIjoU], where the pro-Morsi camp is still sitting in. I mean, they’ve done more than sit in. Now they actually have a full-fledged sort of Tahrir-esque setup there where they have bathrooms, they have showers. Ramadan’s–you know, it’s the month of Ramadan, where most people, definitely, in the Morsi camp will be fasting. Most of Egypt is fasting. And they break their fast at sunset. So they have an infrastructure set up to have everyone eating at sunset. I mean, they’re there for the long haul, it seems. And today being Friday, the general day when people protest in Egypt because it’s easy, since many men are already congregating in mosques, there have been a lot of protests, a lot of marches and attempts to march towards the military leadership’s positions or ministries. So it’s still ongoing.
The political scene is–I mean, it seems like it may be settling with a cabinet in place now, finally. However, there hasn’t been any sort of consensus reached where Egypt in general could sort of rest at ease that there will be some sort of stability.
DESVARIEUX: So let’s talk a little bit about the opposition, specifically the liberal opposition. We know that they were up in arms when Morsi issued a constitutional decree, and then also when he appointed a general prosecutor. Now that the military’s in power, we’re hearing that they are virtually silent over this. What is your take?
ELMESHAD: Well, I mean, it’s important to note that the military will say that they are not in power, that this is just the roadmap that they put in. And the head of the constitutional court is now the interim president. I mean, when Morsi issued his constitutional decree of late last year, it’s true his opposition, not just liberal but much of his opposition across the board, were up in arms, as you said. They refused, they rejected as sort of a dictatorial, unilateral move to consolidate a lot of the centers of power under the president and under his–within sort of the realm of his influence.
What happened with the military is that, yes, exactly as you said, everyone seems to be quiet about this unilateral move by the military to issue a roadmap. However, it has been sugarcoated also in the garb of a decree that has some sort of consensus, given that they brought in, ostensibly, representatives from different factions, different–I mean, the two major religions in Egypt, Islam and Coptic Christianity, as well as the many who are considered to be revolutionary leaders or leaders from the 25 January revolution. So a lot of the opposition, a lot of the liberal groups, a lot of the anti-Morsi groups and pro-what happened, pro-military roadmap groups will say that this was a consensus, this was a necessary step to keep Egypt from going further and further into a path that may lead to something similar or looking like a civil war.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Let’s talk about one of the leaders in this liberal opposition we have, ElBaradei. What would you say does ElBaradei have to gain in all of this, the ouster of Morsi?
ELMESHAD: ElBaradei’s been an interesting–I mean, I wouldn’t say enigmatic, but he’s been an interesting figure from the beginning, from the anti-Mubarak movement before. And it must be said that he was a driving force even before he returned to Egypt after 25 January. I was there at the airport when he came, and everyone was waiting to see what Baradei would be bringing to the table. When he came, he participated in the 25 January Revolution. He was unequivocal in calling for Mubarak is to step down. He was unequivocal in calling for consensus-building and for the people of Egypt to rise and take control of the country after the ouster of Mubarak.
What happened recently–I mean, Baradei has been very critical of Morsi regime. He refused to run in presidential elections, he refused to have a role in democratic processes under the military rule, and he would say that I refuse to participate because he didn’t think that the military would help run a clean democratic process. So now he seems to have gained–seems to stand to gain is an actual executive position in the Egyptian government.
Whether or not this means that he will have a position in the long haul, I mean, Baradei, definitely he’s not a stranger to the political scene in Egypt and political scenes in other countries. And usually when people take positions in interim governments, as what happened in many of the cabinets before Morsi, even, it usually doesn’t mean that these same people will become leaders in permanent structures or permanent political fixtures to come. So whether or not Baradei stands to gain as an individual isn’t as clear as whether or not the liberal anti-Morsi camps see this as a way to sort of cement their position in Egyptian politics in years to come, whether or not the military will still have a direct involvement in politics.
DESVARIEUX: So, Mohamed, let’s talk about Vice President ElBaradei’s relationship with the international community. I know there was something that came up recently between the Turkish prime minister and Vice President ElBaradei. Can you talk about that little bit?
ELMESHAD: Well, I think the interaction speaks more towards the international community’s reaction to this question of is it or is it not a coup. Erdogan definitely thinks it’s a coup. We can’t forget that Erdogan has been–he’s been the main sort of the bastion of anti-Ataturkism in Turkey, Ataturkism as a military creed or allowing the military to have as much power as they once had in Turkey [incompr.] undergoing kind of four coups over the past few decades.
So Erdogan, his position is obviously against the military taking the steps it did, and he unequivocally calls it a coup. He refused, according to a video released from Turkey quoting him saying that he refuses, to meet with ElBaradei, who is vice president for international affairs. He requested to meet Erdogan. Erdogan apparently said no, because how can I meet with you after you by all accounts would have or did not gain more than 1.5 percent of the popular vote. I don’t know what vote he’s talking about, but it’s clear what he was talking about with Morsi, saying that, well, there’s a guy who–Morsi, who won over 51 percent of the vote, and I must meet with him. And it’s not an honor for me to meet an unelected representative of the people when I could meet with an elected one. This is causing a lot of issues with Turkey between Turkey Egypt.
It’s apparently causing issues between Turkey and the U.A.E. There are reports that the U.A.E. has issues and is threatening with sort of–is threatening economically Turkey to retract some of its investments because of its position on Egypt. The U.A.E. obviously has a very strong position on Egypt in support of what just happened in Egypt, and they consider it to be a movement supporting the people’s desires.
Now, this is–just it speaks to the central question of whether or not it’s a coup. Yesterday I was hanging out with a friend of mine who is an officer in the military. He believes wholeheartedly in the military, thinks Sisi is an honorable soldier. But when I asked him is it a coup or is it not, he just looked at me and said, listen, I mean, we’re in the streets, like, the soldiers are in the streets, we’re in control of civil territories. I was always taught that this was a coup. So it all revolves around the central issue of is this a coup, is this not a coup.
Are coups always good? Are coups always bad? We could go on for hours about this. But, obviously, in Egypt, if you consider it a coup, then you are against the military, the rhetoric now in the streets. If you are against the coup, then you are pro-Morsi. And these are the semantics being thrown around. And it’s obviously resonating on the world scene.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Thank you so much for joining us, Mohamed.
ELMESHAD: Thanks, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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