"Nobody solves their problems with an army, and armies should be kept out of political problems. Try to find a method of understanding among yourselves, as if the army takes to the street, Egypt will have very dangerous problems that may delay its progress for the next 40 years."
This is what the Egyptian Minister of Defence, General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, said to a group of writers, intellectuals, artists and journalists attending a military exercise last Saturday morning for the ninth Armoured Division in the Dahshur region.
When Al-Sisi uttered these words, I was sitting in the first row on the celebration platform, and as I looked at the faces of the people around me, I saw that most of them were speechless.
Some people may have prepared themselves for Al-Sisi's announcement of his first statement to seize power; he surprised them and exposed them to the naked truth, which is that the politicians have a fundamental duty. However, what he did explicitly say to them was that the failure of politicians should not be blamed on the army.
I spoke to a number of the attendees, and one can understand their frustration due to the setbacks of the revolution and the division that has prevailed between the parties.
However, one of the main problems we are experiencing is that the majority of the opposition in Egypt does not want to work; they want to sit down, cross their legs, and have their power presented to them on a gold platter.
In his frank speech, Al-Sisi told the opposition and all those attending that, "there are 52 million voters; if 25 million voted, and if they stood for 10 or 15 hours at the ballot boxes, only then can you make change; and we will be the ones securing the elections."
Counsellor Raga'i Atiyah asked Al-Sisi to guarantee that there are certain actions, dialogues, and discussions to ensure the security of Egypt, so the Defence Minister stressed his previous statements by saying, "I am not a party in the matter, and will not give up my role. There is political action being taken in the country, and all Egyptians must participate in it. You do not know what it means for the army to take to the street to protest. This is very dangerous, and warnings about the army taking to the street are neither for regional nor international reasons, but the essence of the matter is Egypt remaining a state."
After these unequivocal words, I looked at the faces around me again, and found that they had become even darker and more fretful.
The basic message conveyed by Al-Sisi's remarks, which I find to be the most dangerous of his recent remarks, is that everyone is being held responsible. By everyone, I mean the liberal opposition, which should engage in a political battle and should mainly count on the Egyptian people and the ballot box.
I write again, as I have written on more than one occasion, "If the army took to the streets and regained power from the Muslim Brotherhood, and remained in power or put a liberal party in power, the time will eventually come for elections…what will we do if the Islamists win again; will we arrest or kill them all? "
The right and effective solution is for each one of us to play our part…The party should take to the street and compete for the power to govern and implement its agenda; the army should protect the borders; and the police should protect the people.
If the party comes to power and fails miserably economically, socially and in terms of security, and then announces its disbelief in democracy and pluralism, and begins to nationalise politics and the country for its benefit, then the opposition has a right to call on everyone for help, both on the people and the army. However before this, the issue seems very difficult.
The author is an Egyptian writer. This article is a translation from the Arabic which first appeared in Al Shorouk Newspaper, 13 May 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.