A fascinating discussion on the future of North Africa from the World Economic Forum in Davros
Video Transcript Reproduced Below: https://youtu.be/zlfe9-J-7UA
Good morning. Welcome and thank you very much for being here with us today this early. Let me introduce myself first. My name is Nadine Hani. I present the business news on Al Arabiya News Channel. I will be your moderator for this session. The title of this panel for this morning is, From Revolution to Evolution: Governance in North Africa. I would like to note that this panel will be held in Arabic. So we will be having simultaneous translation. Kindly make sure that you have your headsets with you if you need to listen to the translation. I also would like to point out that this session is streaming, is broadcasted on the internet and might be broadcasted as well later on TV.
I now move to Arabic. I would like to mention that a year ago I was here in Davos and everyone was watching screens on TV or following the news on the internet in order to see what was happening in the Arab world. A year after these historic events, the general climate is less optimistic than it was at the beginning of the revolution. Hurdles were bigger than expected and the process of political transformation was not easy at all times. At the economic level, the situation is more difficult because these Arab revolutions were accompanied with the European crisis, and of course this has led to economic problems especially for countries in North Africa. According the studies, the cost of the Arab Spring is $56 billion. The last GDP value in the country is affected by revolutions. As to the death toll, it is of course more dramatic. But this is not only a bad situation. As we have heard, there was positive change.
There were elections held in various countries and hence the transformation process. In Tunisia for example, maybe it was the easiest. And in Morocco they carried out reforms before any revolutions. Now, North African countries are witnessing deep social and economic transformation. In order to discuss all of these issues, I am hosting with me Mr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, presidential candidate in Egypt. He is the Secretary-General of the Arab Medical Union from Egypt. His Excellency, Prime Minister of Tunisia, Mr. Hammadi Jebali, whom we have just listened to. Mr. Abdelilah Benkirane, Chief of Government of Morocco. And Mr. Amre Moussa, presidential candidate in Egypt and Secretary-General of the League of Arab States from 2001 to 2011.
Thank you all for being our guests today. I would like to start with you, Your Excellency, regarding Morocco because we heard today about the Tunisian experience. But in Morocco the situation was different. You anticipated any uprising and reforms were carried out, but to what extent this change is real and can you tell us about your experience? And there is separation, a separation between powers, between you as the Prime Minister, and His Majesty, the King. In the name of God most gracious, most merciful. Mrs. Hani, please allow me before telling you about the Moroccan experience to tell you about my opinion on what happened in our countries.
We all know that our region was governed based on logic in two folds if I might say. First, there was the development dream with Abdel Nasser, Bolkiah and others through a tight grip. So there was a tight grip, but at the same time, there was the dream of development. But governance in the last 25 years lost the dream of development and only the tight grip remained, this tight grip in power and this tight grip as to wealth.
So irrespective of good intentions or bad intentions, the results were as witnessed. So these people in power were seeking wealth Everywhere, so the situation was very difficult for our peoples. They could not enjoy freedom and they could not earn a decent living. At the same time, there was an elite that emerged and that enjoyed a lot of wealth.
So the explosion was inevitable. This is how this Arab Spring was born. People were expecting it but not in the way it unfolded. Yes, it’s true. This was a very big surprise. Yes, it is the format that was surprising. Actually, in Morocco, I can tell you very frankly that what has happened in Arab countries, we were living in a moderate way. Reforms had started 20 years ago. His Majesty, King Hassan II, was aware of changes that were happening. He initiated reconciliation with the left wing and he established a dialogue with the Islamists. Mr. Jebali was for 15 years in prison, but in our country, it was maybe more limited regarding prison time for some Islamists. So there were some violations, but this was limited. Please allow me to ask you a question. When you were on the other side, could you aspire to what you have achieved now? Yes, what I am telling you is the reality when I was on the other side.
I do not change my position with the change of my place now. So this movement in the Arab world has arrived in Morocco as warm as necessary for change but not sufficiently to burn what was in place if I might say. So it was warm enough but it did not burn. So there were a lot of tensions and one has to admit that we cannot go be with the leaders or against them. We just have to see their positions. Yes, but if we have to describe the current situation — Sorry, don’t interrupt me says the speaker. So His Majesty, the King, after the 20th of February, was very aware of what is happening and paid great attention to the change and the mood. So the tensions were there and corruption was there. So the King tabled a proposal in March in order to change this logic of the state tightening its grip to wealth and power. He paved the way for a new constitution for elections and a government that would have real executive powers. The government until today was kind of a secretariat for the king, but now the situation has changed.
A big change has occurred, but it is an acceptable change. And I became only yesterday a member of parliament. So if you can ask me what has changed in Morocco, I cannot give you a lot of details. But we can see the change occurring and people in Morocco have high hopes that the necessary transformation will take place, and this will not be in confrontation with the King because our kingdom dates back to 12 centuries.
Yes, I will get back to you, Your Excellency. Please don’t call me Your Excellency. Yes, this is what we say in Lebanon, says the anchor. Let’s move to the Egyptian matters. In Egypt, maybe it was the most impressive phenomenon, but as we have seen, there were many hurdles. Today, if we would like to look at the future, do you think that the transfer of power will occur as smoothly from the military rulers to a civil rule? In the name of God most gracious, most merciful. The Egyptian revolution and the martyrs that fell were a source of inspiration for the whole world. However, priority goes to our dear brethren in Tunisia. However, it goes without saying that the catalyst and motivator to uprise against the corrupt leaderships and regimes, Germanistic ones, which destroyed the future of many of the new generation, as well as dissipated all hope in the youth of these nations.
Sell, these regimes in fact were backed by Western regimes in general. So this requires me to call on all Western regimes at this august forum, to call on them, in fact to seize backing these germinating regimes in the Third World. In fact, morally, they are required to apologize for the crimes they committed against the peoples of the Third World when they backed these former regimes against their people. As for the transition in Egypt, after the millions of the Egyptian people which stood up against the regimes and which they further reaffirmed the day before yesterday on the 25th of January, as you may well know, the Egyptian people from all walks of life rose and stood up once again that it would not turn back on its claims for a decent living, dignity and humanity.
We insist and we are determined. I will not accept from any power, internally or externally, to turn us back. After the Egyptian people complete the parliamentary elections, 70% so far of the Egyptian people have taken part in these parliamentary elections and which very clearly expressed their choices. So now the Egyptian people is determined to complete the presidential elections in time. So after having elected our second chamber, once the two chambers of parliament and once we have the two-chamber parliament, as well as a constitution, a consensual constitution which reflects all walks of life of the Egyptian people, the Egyptian people will not turn its back and will not allow any return to the previous regime. Our Egyptian Army is a professional and nationalistic army. We in Egypt consider it one of the components of Egyptian civilization. The Egyptian Army in any single day never shot anyone of the people.
However, should I succeed in the elections and become President of Egypt, I will not dissipate the blood of any Egyptian person. I may in fact overlook my own rights. I was imprisoned in the age of Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, and I forgive all what’s committed against me, all the harm that befell me. However, I shall not forgive any harm or injury that was inflicted against the members of the Egyptian people. This is my duty should I succeed in the presidential election. If not, I shall carry on in my struggle for justice and freedom.
Mr. Amre Moussa, today, talk is about the military council. Mr. Abdel Fotouh seems to be in fact optimistic about the elections. Do you believe that this transition will take place? Because certain fractions of the Egyptian people in fact did not believe this. In fact, the man in the street did not believe in it. I would like first and foremost, says Mr. Amre Moussa, to start with what was said by His Excellency, the head the of the Moroccan government. I would like you to draw your attention to an important aspect. The role of the Arab Maghreb is seminal. It is going to play a major role in the future of the Arab region, not only in the Mashriq but the Arab Maghreb. The Arab Spring started in Tunisia and we have now an independent experience in Morocco. So we must follow very carefully the developments taking place in the countries of the Arab Maghreb. This is the first point. My second point deals, of course, with Egypt. In Egypt, we had agreed to a time framework for a transitional period, and this is part of the social and political piece in Egypt.
It is very difficult, therefore, for us to in fact exceed this framework. Elections mid-June and what is accepted and expected is that the head of state will be in office as of the first of July. This is a very important point. However, the ongoing conversation about what has taken place and what will take place will remain important for us to determine exactly what happened, what were the destructions that took place in Egypt, and how to avoid their repetition in the future.
What is even more important for us is to look to the future, to look into reconstruction. This reconstruction requires cooperation. First of all, stability, stability in Egypt and cooperation from within the Arab countries and also from the rest of the world. be they the financial institutions or the other regional groupings with the economic ability. We have before us a very long massive agenda to be completed. We have to tackle education, health, housing, unemployment, poverty. What was stated by His Excellency, the Prime Minister of Tunisia or head of Tunisia is important. The number of unemployed, of university graduates is important. However, if we carry on talking in generalities and clashing with other entities in the world, this, in my opinion, will in fact just simply be a waste of time. A waste of time for us which will prevent us from reconstruction and bringing about development. Development requires us to combat corruption. We have to fight poverty on the one hand and corruption on the other, as well as all those excesses and exaggeration in description of our relations with other countries.
It goes without saying that we have in fact overcome the colonialist era, and has now become countries that are seeking development. This development requires a different form of government and a firm desire to put an end to the past and build the future. Mr. Moussa, I shall ask you at a later point what is your view of Egypt’s future? However, I would like to turn to you, Mr. Jebali. We heard in your statement earlier a description of the general outline of the expectations of your government. However, in Tunisia you are also today currently redrafting your constitution. Now, I would like to know what are the principles that you will be upholding in your constitution? Because there’s a general fear when elections take place and certain parties win the election and then of the majority in a parliament to draft a new constitution. Does this mean that the constitution will allow for the peaceful transition of power, transitional government? Is this how the constitution will be drafted? Will it be through consensus with the different parties? Thank you, Nadine.
First of all, the constitution will not be a constitution of the parliamentary majority. How? It shall be a consensual participatory constitution with all segments of society, parties, organizations, associations, unions. You may be assured that there are many proposals regarding the new constitution from intellectuals, academics, trade unions and political parties. So the constitutional council does not have a majority that has agreed to the terms of a given constitution. It is an agreement on a coalition. However, the constitution will be the object of an exchange of views to draft a constitution. There’s a consensus in Tunisia that this constitution must respond to the expectations of all segments of Tunisian society, i.e. it must defend human rights, public freedoms, women’s rights. This is a great achievement for the Tunisian people. All the segments of Tunisian society agree to this basis and have agreed to uphold them. This constitution will be one seeking to establish a civil society, a civilian state that takes into account human rights and defense, economic freedoms and respects religious freedom, religious worship and faith.
A constitution that provides for the peaceful transition of power and one that will prevent us from falling back into dictatorship. If there’s one thing we have agreed to in Tunisia, and a large majority has agreed to, it is the form of this constitution as to whether we are going to be a constitution, a parliamentary or a presidential system, this is a point of form rather than principle. All Tunisians refuse to turn back to the past, and this constitution will be our security against this. The Tunisian people and the history will not accept, I believe, even the international community will not accept for us to turn back.
And though the European and international authorities have supported Ben Ali in the past, they have now learned their lesson. And now, they will no longer accept to deal with any dictatorial regimes. I believe that there has been a very positive outlook towards the Tunisian experience because such an experience in development is in the interest of all. It is an excellent model for peaceful transition and change as compared to the violent change that has taken place in other parts of the world. This is in the interest of Tunisia, the Arab’s underworld. Mr. Benkirane, regarding this question of the constitution, I said earlier that we would ask you what are your ambitions? The situation today is much better than what it was in the past. What are you looking forward to? Are you also looking forward to further constitutional amendments, or are you calling for these amendments? What are the reforms you are looking forward to in Morocco? At the present juncture, we are not calling for reforms.
We are calling for the implementation of reforms. We in the government, we are the ones who are governing. Are you seeking for a change or an amendment of the constitution? We amended the constitution on the first of July. This constitution should be implemented in practice, and we should fulfill it to its full extent. The constitution now allows a great deal of liberties and freedoms. The head of government is now appointed. He appoints the heads of the government institutions. Some of the most strategic ones are still being appointed by the king. However, many powers and authorities have changed. The judiciary is now independent. Please listen to what I have to say. The main problem in our countries is that of authority and power. Is the authority as the power there to serve the government, or is it there in fact to implement policies to favor the elite and certain governments and international regimes? Let’s not turn around the subject. But in fact we are seeing in the government the same faces as in the past. The faces can stay. Does the government enjoy sufficient scope and leeway to implement its policies? I deal with ministers who are ministers operating and working with me.
If there’s any problem, we sit and discuss subjects openly. However, we must nevertheless examine and consider our genuine abilities to bring about reform and implement reform. The Moroccans have implemented a reform that suits them. The Moroccans wish to retain their royal regime. Moroccan young people for weeks and months for a whole year, they never called for the overthrow of the king or royalty. They were against corruption and Germany, and we oppose Germany and corruption. And we call for stability under the current regime. Our regime, our royal regime has understood that we have to change. And the Moroccans also realized they cannot sweep away everything, but they have to take into account the current situation. On the basis of this experience, we believe that.
Yesterday in parliament we in fact received a vote of confidence, and the opposition is also hoping and supporting this transition and success for this transition. Moroccan society on the basis of the current vote of confidence which amass about 80%, these are statistics that are independent of the government. These are statistics I was informed of through the press. So I believe on the basis of these percentages. We can bring about a reform and prove the situation gradually to serve the government and our people and to serve the poor and the needy. In Morocco, we are not like Egypt. We do not have wages of $15. We have a working class that was able to defend itself and to fulfill its rights. However, there’s a large segment of society, 30-40% of society who are completely powerless. So therefore, my question is what are your plans to tackle this problem? Now, to curtain back to the question of the constitution, Mr.
Abdel Moneim, I have a question to you that feels odd the majority will dictate a constitution. There is no trend in Egypt to draft the constitution which would reflect a certain trend or current. All the political powers in Egypt, as well as Egyptian people have expressed this in their celebration of the first anniversary of the general revolution. They have all stated that the constitution will in fact reflect all the trends and currents in the country, as well as those values that are believed in by the political powers and the Egyptian people. Egypt is currently not governed by a party or any given power. The Egyptian people are the ones who are governing and leading Egypt.
The Egyptian people is a nation that has a sense of humor. And we say in Egypt that though we have not elected a president yet, the Egyptian people is already calling for the fall of the next president should he betray the interest and the goals of the Egyptian people. I am fully confident that as long as the people is governing its country through its institutions, be it a parliamentary or a presidential regime, I am confident that they will draft a constitution that respects the interests and ambitions of the Egyptian people and will seek to reconcile itself with all the peoples of the world without any restriction except that regarding the interest of its own people.
I am one of those who believe that this Davos forum is a humanitarian one, and I wish for it to continue as a means of communication between peoples to bring about international peace and stability, as well as continuity, says the speaker in English, so that we in fact may build a humanitarian society. We, the Egyptian people, a nation whose civilization goes back to 7,000 years has lived a great humanitarian experience. It was undermined by a certain regime. However, we are a nation which respects communication and dialogue. We are seeking to draft a constitution for a modern democratic nation based on the values of the Egyptian people with all its faiths and segments. We seek to draft a constitution based on the rights of citizens so that all citizens may enjoy equal rights and duties without any distinction due to sex, faith, religion, or political party.
This is not a constitution that will take into account any trend or current. We do have Fundamentalist Islamists trend. You have heard about it of course, the Salafist trend. However I welcome its interaction in society today and engagement with society today because its very presence will lead to a greater deal or pragmatism on their part and this will help us to bring about a union of all these currents so they will all join our historic march. So this will add value to Egypt and it must be maintained and upheld. This should not lead to any segmentation or fragmentation. We have one condition on this constitution and that is that no party may resort to violence. All matters may be solved by dialogue and discussion and agreement on the political mechanism and instruments to overcome our problems.
We seek to dialogue to cooperate in this field. You are also involved with this matter. The revolution in Egypt started for several reasons, not only due to political problems but it’s also due to existential problems. Because only a minor fragment of the percentage of society was enjoying the wealth in the country. You are a Presidential candidate. How do you consider Egypt of the future? We, in Egypt, of all political currents, are very aware of the dangerous nature of the current situation and its developments. If we do not proceed with a genuine outlook and consideration of the current situation. So far, we have succeeded in setting a definite time frame which has a clear end. We wish to start with a government that has a complete structure. The constitutional operation, in fact, is proceeding in parallel with the construction of our government. All the principles we are seeking for have existed in previous constitutions, including the constitution that was just annulled. Our main principle is to seek to uphold these constitutional principles and bring people to defend these values. They will not defend these values unless they enjoy rational, enlightened government, one that does not seek to, in fact, bring about political unrest, but will seek to respect the desires of the people.
We must determine what is the interest of Egypt, just as Morocco and Tunisia are determining their interest. But we also have to respect the overall principles and interests of the Arab cultures. The change is not only in North Africa. The change is in the entire Arab world. However the changes have taken place in North Africa and were successful. This is a revolution about mismanagement. What happened in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt as well as what happened in Morocco, it is an independent experience. It is the same as has happened in Syria and in Libya and which will happen elsewhere. We are now in a major phase of change. However, we must not fall into the trap of people stirring the masses and propaganda. We must draft plans. When we talk about the constitution, I don’t only mean constitution. I mean constitutional development, constitution and work. However, to simply content ourselves to talk about generalities is not enough. The people wish to have a decent standard of living.
However this can only be achieved through the fulfillment of their claims and demands. We must draft plans, cooperate and base our plans on reality and not on stirring public emotions, which has caused a great deal of damage. People and nations have rights. These must be respected. Their interests are clear. The government must be a rational one. Our enemy is in the final run, poverty and mismanagement and corruption. One last point, and an important one. Tackling social problems is an important point. We all know, Mr. Jebali, the current revolution was sparked by poverty and unemployment. Your major responsibility today is to tackle these problems, as well as your relations with Europe and the external world. These problems will affect and influence your relations with the outside world. The motto and slogan of the Tunisian revolution and other Arab revolutions is dignity, politically speaking, socially speaking and dignity in combating political hegemony, as well as dignity, socially speaking.
In Tunisia, we have taken great steps towards the establishment of a democratic regime. One that responds and meets a large part of the claims of the Tunisian people which has rejected dictatorship. As I said, and as my colleagues said, our major concern is the social challenges. How can we now respond to that second aspect of dignity, that is to say, social justice? In Tunisia, there is a major challenge here because these masses of unemployed young people have found their voice. They were silenced by the previous dictatorship. Now they demonstrate mass and even, in certain cases, do so beyond the law. This has come about due to long decades of corruption. Fortunes were stolen, were looted. Generations lost their future. So we must tackle this second part of dignity. While safeguarding democracy and freedoms and establishing the state of law and constitution, we must nevertheless respond to the second part. Because we are suffering from two problems, or facing two challenges. Urgent social demands as well as the insecurity and state of unrest which can improve, if we improve social living conditions.
The overall economic situation in the world is also an important factor. However, we do hope we shall be able to move on to a new phase where we’ll be able to tackle new problems. These problems are those of, first of all, employment. We must seek to overcome unemployment. We must also try to convince our partners that for the Tunisian democratic experience to succeed, Tunisia and other Arab countries need support in these endeavors. I believe here, in Davos, this is an opportunity for us and after hearing this appeal, these development efforts require support.
They require us to use our own resources, but these may not be sufficient. We will need further resources and we hope we shall be able to do so, without looting the resources of the other people. Are there any questions that you would like to raise to the panelists? Could you just raise your hand? Could we pass on the microphones? Let’s start with the gentleman, then, and (inaudible) then next. Let’s start with the gentleman. Salaam Aleikhem. I am an Italian journalist. Sorry, could you raise your voice a little bit? I would like to ask you what is the model? Just one year ago here, in Davos, the business community was praising the Egyptian reforms, economic reforms, market-oriented, and now I don’t see a lot of the business of the community of the Western part of the world here in this hall, just being here, just to apologize for our thinking last year.
What is the question? The question is, the Western model, the capitalist model, may have been discredited. Of course (inaudible) of course, are too old. Assuming that the political Islam is going to take the power in an increasing number of the Arab countries, what is going to be the economic model? Okay, it’s clear. The question is that there is fear in the business world, fear of the triumph of political Islamist parties. Will this affect the business environment in the Arab world? I’ll give you all the floor to answer this question.
I’ll start with Mr. Benkirane. I would like to turn to foreign businessmen. I would like to ask you, have you suffered from the winning of Islamic parties? But please allow me. In the past you have provided support to extremists, to oppressive leaders and you used to look at your own interests and our leaders also used to look at their own interests and that is how they missed the great opportunity and the investors also missed great opportunities. Now we have Islamic parties and these parties are comprised of the local population. They are open-minded, they are modern. What else do you want? Today we can guarantee your interests more than they did in the past.
I do not want to compare between current political parties or current regimes and the past ones but today, I assure you, we are capable of assuring and guaranteeing your investments more than they did in the past. So you, as foreign investors, as European investors, you should come to us. You should say, we are Europeans, we are Westerners and you are Arabs and Muslims and we each have our own interests. We should respect each other, respect each other’s specificities and then work together to ensure our mutual interests. We all need, we all seek foreign investments. We need that investment, but for that investment we need stability, so do not believe sometimes that there is stability when you see that the local population is being deprived of its rights, of its human rights.
But maybe the West now needs a message, needs a reassurance from these new political parties which now rule a number of Arab countries? So what can you say to reassure these investors in the field of traditional banking or fiduciaries or in other fields? I do not believe that the new regimes must be called political Islamic regimes. I do not believe so. But they did win the elections, it is true. But we need to be very specific when we choose our terminology. We are speaking about democratic regimes who won honest elections and transparent elections.
For the first time in the Arab world, we have elections. We have free and honest elections which led to democratic regimes. In Tunisia, and for the first time, and this is what I just said in my speech, we have a consensual government that comprises a number of diverse political parties. But I believe that the liberals also were part of your bloc? Yes, it is true. The liberals were part of our bloc and the Tunisians, whether they are Islamists, whether they are Jewish, who cares? They are Tunisians and that is what counts. They are Tunisians. What is important is to have a democratic regime, is to have a democratic system that won honest elections. Some say that the Western system is not suitable, is no longer appropriate. We are for free and open markets. We are for the freedom of capital and I do understand that there are regional specificities and I do understand that there are shortcomings in our countries and that is why the State has to play a role in order to amend, to correct, the situation. The State must not intervene in the economic life.
This is not what we want. We do not want intervention by the State. We want to leave the markets open and free but the State has a certain role to play, to amend the system, to supervise the economic system in order to ensure that it works to serve the interests of the citizens. We need certain reforms. We are not against the Western system per se, but we understand and we think that underprivileged populations need to be given their rights. What about Egypt? Mr. Amre Moussa, if we look at the Muslim Brotherhood and at the Salafists who won the elections, and if we gathered the votes that they got, you’d see that they got more than 50% of the votes in Egypt.
Do you think that this will change the face of Egypt, especially when it comes to investments and tourism? It is true. There will be a change. There will be a change in the approach that will be adopted and in the solutions that will be found to certain of our problems. I heard the question that was raised by our friend from Italy. He expresses the point of view of the West. The West is wondering will it be able to deal, to cope with these new Islamic political parties in the Arab world? We have listened to what Mr. Jebali said and we have adopted, we have endorsed democracy.
We have embraced democracy. The question that you should raise is will the West be able to deal with Arab democracy? I have looked at the agenda, I have looked at the agenda of the Salafists in Egypt and their agenda calls for certain modifications in the banking system in Egypt in order to adopt certain Islamic laws. It is true, but this is not the opinion of the majority. We have freedom of expression. Everybody has the right to say what he or she thinks. This is not exactly what the Salafists said. The Salafists are against this extremist vision of things. However it is true that the West wants democracy in Arab states. But they want a democracy that would lead to the winning of the parties that they want and to the regime that they want. This is what we saw in the past in Palestine.
If you want honest elections, fair elections, you have to accept the results of those elections. Let us not forget that political action in Egypt will be based on consensus. I am a presidential candidate and if I win the elections, I will ensure that there is consensus, consensus within Egypt and consensus within the Arab world and consensus within the region. Consensus does not mean hegemony. Consensus means cooperation. We are rebuilding our countries and this stage in our lives is very important. It is a very serious phase. In the past, investors used to be happy to come and invest in our countries even though there was a lot of corruption. But let me guarantee you, let me assure you, that corruption will recede and will diminish in the future. I would like to give the floor to Ms. Dergham and then I’ll give back the floor to the panelists. Raghida Dergham from Al Hayat newspaper. Do you have any guarantees, any constitutional guarantees, in order to separate the State from religion? You are quite vague when it comes to this matter.
The situation in the Arab world has now changed a lot, and women in the Arab world, what they are calling for are guarantees. They want a new constitution that would guarantee them their rights. You come and you say that you want to work with the West, you want assistance from the West and it is true. It is clear to us that you want a new relationship with the West, but what do you have to offer to the West? Can you ensure the West that you are going to move forward, even though you have a half-democracy, if I might say, because you don’t have a democracy that guarantees the right of all women? We cannot have an amputated democracy. If we want a real democracy, then we have to take into account the entire population. The democracy cannot ignore women. For the first time in the history of my country, we had the same number of women as men on electoral lists. We have a large number of women in our Parliament. 42% of them are from Al Nahda. This Al Nahda party, as you know, has an Islamic tendency.
We do not believe that we can build a society without half of its population. Half of that population is made up of women and women, as you know, they raise generations. So we cannot build a society without women. We have in the past said this and I shall repeat it here, again. It is true that there are certain things that take place in our country that must be denounced. It is true that the situation of Arab women is not one of the best in the world, however, I think that we are doing a lot in this field. I believe that many efforts are being made, especially in Tunisia. Women are allocated a lot of importance and we are working hard to ensure the place that women deserve in society. I do not know what other guarantees do you want? We have a constitution that is non-discriminatory, that gives the same equal rights to men and women, to people from various creeds. These are the rights that we must guarantee because they are guaranteed in Islam and must be guaranteed in the Tunisian constitution and this is what democracy is all about.
I started by speaking about the economy and now I turn to you, Mr. Abdel Moneim, and I ask you, what are the main economic priorities in Egypt? We know that 40% of the Egyptian population live under the poverty line and a large number of them live in extreme poverty. 15% of the population is unemployed. We used to live under a very corrupt regime which used to control around 80% of our resources, of our wealth. We are for an open-market economy, for a free economy. We want to establish a new tax system that would ensure legal or social justice. We want to ensure the rights of both the private and the public sectors and we are for both private and public ownership. We want to ensure a larger participation by the civil society in the development process. All these things are very important to us.
We need this process in which everybody participates. We, in Egypt, need to review Western liberalism, especially in the field of economy. Now that we have seen American young people go out within this Occupy Wall Street movement in order to demand for a review of the economic system and in order to ensure social justice, we, too, need to do the same. We, too, need to review the economic system in order to guarantee economic prosperity to all our citizens.
We welcome investments, private investments and public investments in Egypt and we have great investment opportunities in Egypt, especially in the field of tourism. We do recognize that we were suffering from many shortcomings in the past, under the previous regime, but let me assure you that we have all the necessary conditions in order to promote tourism. We have the very wonderful weather and we have the tourist sights and we would like to ensure up to 50 million tourists in Egypt every year. We listen to all the views that are given to us. We are living in a democratic society now and we listen to all the views. I believe that the mainstream in Egypt is a modern moderate one that is capable of listening to all these views and taking them into account.
It is true that women were oppressed in our Eastern societies. Women were also oppressed in Western societies, where women are used in ads, in commercials. She is used as a commodity and now we need to give back to women their dignity. We need to look at women as human beings equal to men. What we need is to enable women to come into Parliament, to participate in parliaments, in Egypt and in Tunisia and in all other Arab countries, given that in the past women faced many obstacles in the political sphere. My own electoral campaign is based on young men and women, and especially young women from Egypt, who helped me in this electoral campaign throughout Egypt. It is true that we are going to face a lot of changes in the future, and it is true that we are afraid of the way that those problems might be solved, but I assure you that we are a very moderate society.
I would like to give the floor to the last two speakers, very quickly, Mr. Benkirane first, and Mr. Amre Moussa later on. Let me assure you that people are trying to spread fear amongst us in a systematic manner. They’re trying to make us fear what is going to happen. They are trying exaggerate things. They are trying to focus on corruption. And it is true that we have witnessed a lot of corruption in our countries ever since our independence. It is true that corruption has led some people to become very wealthy. Some people are even wealthier than the wealthiest people in the West and this is what makes people very fearful. It is this corruption that makes us fear the future, but this is not acceptable. We must prove that we are capable of changing the situation. It is true that there are very extremist people in our countries, just like in any other country in the world. However, how can we deal with these people? The best way to deal with them is to bring them out of the closet, if I might say, is not to keep them marginalized.
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You need to try to attract them, to draw them towards you. You need to involve them in the life, the political life. You need to involve them in the parliament because they might start by being extremists, but then they will see that their extremism does not help them and then they will become more and more moderate, little by little. This is what happened to us. Please let me finish. This is how we were. When we were a young people, we used to be very extremist in our views, we used to have these great hopes and dreams. However, when we entered the political sphere we understood that we had to be more realistic, that we had to be more moderate. Every time that I meet with an official, I tell him that the only thing I ask you is to come to me whenever you have a problem, but if we have to eat together, if we have to dine or lunch together, the only thing I ask you is not to put alcohol on the table.
Is this considered as extremism? If you want to dine or to lunch alone, you can drink alcohol, but when you’re sitting at my table, you cannot. Is this considered as extremism? Mr. Amre Moussa. You said that in the Moroccan government there are faces that we saw before, but let us not forget that there is a national, patriotic stream in Morocco that has existed in the past, throughout history and that is why it has to continue, and that is why sometimes you feel as if you’re seeing the same faces.
Thank you all for attending this session. .
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