The youngest elected member of our new People's Assembly and a founding member of the Free Egyptians Party, 31-year-old lawyer Ibrahim Abdel Wahab has covered a lot of ground over more experienced — not to mention older — rivals in Alexandria, despite being relatively new to the political game. Dedicated activist that he is, Abdel Wahab takes time out of his honeymoon to talk to Egypt Today about being in the political arena and his aspirations for the country.Edited excerpts.
Being the youngest member of the People's Assembly, how do you respond to claims that you may not be politically experienced enough?
Early in 2011, the youth made this revolution possible, and everyone applauded the efforts of the youth. The youth are cultured.
We want democracy and reforms. We want to see better economy and development. This is why we have to be given the chance, rather than older generations always remaining in power. It’s time that we get this chance, because we achieved this [revolution,] and we are the ones who called for a real democracy. We were engaging in debates on Facebook and social networks about the situation of the country, and we realized the nation is in urgent need for change, so we acted upon it. We also believe that Egypt could be one of the most developed countries in the world, and we have the potential and the resources to be so.
I actually do not like the small number of young people in this parliament, but I’m sure this will change in the next parliament. I believe that the next parliament will have a majority of young people. This is not a dismissal of the experience of older members, which we will make use of.
But we have so much energy and we want to work on changing many things. [The more experienced politicians] can give us the advice.
As an MP, what is the thing you want to change the most, particularly in the constitution?
There is one thing that I think is crucial for Egypt and I really hope we can work on it, and that is making Egypt a nation that respects the rule of law. Laws should be strictly implemented and respected, without any favoritism of one’s status, wealth or fame — no exceptions whatsoever.
Our constitution has many fair articles that ensure freedom and democracy, but unfortunately everybody used to ignore them. Laws were never truly implemented. I really want us to always go back to the law and to make sure that what it stipulates is [truly] enforced. [But] to make sure that the law is respected, there has to be constant monitoring from different judicial entities.
What is your comment on claims that this parliament doesn’t represent Egypt, particularly that it has a majority of Islamists?
Of course I can’t say that this parliament represents all Egyptians, and this is due to the lack of awareness. Also, [the fact that there wasn’t enough] time for the newly formed political parties after the revolution to reach [out to] the people and mobilize them has caused this.
From my point of view, I don’t believe that people voted for Islamists for religious purposes. It’s because the simple-minded thought may be they can trust the religious to be more moral when it comes to governing their country. But the reality I see, is that majority of the Egyptian society is more liberal and adopt more of a liberal lifestyle than a religious one. Some people think — especially the uneducated — that if someone fasts and prays he’ll be more ethical in his dealings.
But I believe this will change in the next parliament, because people will learn, and realize who’s truly working for the betterment of Egypt.
But, all in all, it’s okay, because we’re still taking our initial steps toward democracy.
How do you see the future?
I’m one of those people who are very optimistic. Here in Alexandria for instance, the 24 members of the Parliament had several meetings with Alexandria’s governor, and I found that the 24 of us only want Egypt’s best interest. We all were concerned about reforming the country. We forgot about our ideologies and affiliations, and we just discussed what we could do for Egypt.
We all agreed that we want to work on the real pressing issues, such as education, health and economy. These are the things that we will focus on, rather than fights and useless debates. But of course, we are facing problems from people fighting to make the revolution fail, probably people affiliated with or working for the old regime. Yet we’re definitely stronger, and we will overcome these hurdles.