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Egypt returns to the square. Square one.

Well, two days before Egypt’s historic presidential runoff between the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi and Mubarak’s ex-Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq it looks like Egypt’s revolution is back to the square. No, not mass protests in Tahrir square, although that looks like a very real possibility sooner or later. That’s because Egypt’s revolution is back to square one:

NY Times
Blow to Transition as Court Dissolves Egypt’s Parliament

Published: June 14, 2012

CAIRO – A panel of judges appointed by Egypt’s ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, threw the nation’s troubled transition to democracy into grave doubt Thursday with rulings that dissolved the popularly elected Parliament and allowed the toppled government’s last prime minister to run for president, escalating a struggle by remnants of the old elite to block Islamists from coming to power.

The rulings by Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court were quickly condemned as a “coup” by Islamists, liberals and scholars. The court’s action, coming two days before a presidential runoff, set up a showdown with the Islamists who controlled Parliament. They said Thursday night that they refused to dissolve the legislature and vowed to win the presidency despite the signs of opposition within the government overseeing the vote.

The rulings recalled events that have played out across the region for decades, when secular elites have cracked down on Islamists poised for electoral gains, most famously when the dissolution of Algeria’s Islamist-led Parliament started a civil war 20 years ago.

Citing a misapplication of rules for independent candidates, the court sought to overturn the first democratically elected Parliament in more than six decades and the most significant accomplishment of the Egyptian revolt. Many analysts and activists said Thursday that they feared the decision was a step toward re-establishing a military-backed autocracy, though it was not yet clear whether the military leadership was willing to risk a new outbreak of unrest by suppressing the country’s most powerful political forces.

The streets were mostly quiet on Thursday as organizers digested the rulings. Activists met to plot a response, and some groups announced plans for a major demonstration on Friday night.

The military rulers did not issue a statement on the court’s decision. But the Web site of the state newspaper Al Ahram reported that the generals said the presidential runoff would still take place on schedule.

“From a democratic perspective, this is the worst possible outcome imaginable,” said Shadi Hamid, research director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. “This is an all-out power grab by the military.”

The timing of the ruling seems like a transparent attempt to undermine the Islamists just two days before Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood is set to compete in the runoff against Ahmed Shafik, a former air force general and Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister.

If the ruling is carried out, whoever wins the presidential race would take power without the check of a sitting Parliament and could exercise significant influence over the elections to form a new one. The new president will also take office without a permanent constitution to define his powers or duties. A 100-member constitutional assembly appointed by Parliament and including dozens of lawmakers may also be dissolved. And in any event, the ruling generals are expected to issue their own interim charter during the drafting.

Electing a president without either a constitution or a parliament is like “electing an ‘emperor’ with more power than the deposed dictator. A travesty,” Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Prize-winning diplomat and former presidential candidate, said in a comment online.

In the weeks before the first round of presidential voting, the Brotherhood-led Parliament passed a law blocking Mr. Shafik and other top officials of the Mubarak government from competing for the presidency. But many liberal jurists said that the narrow targeting of the law appeared questionable. An electoral commission of Mubarak-appointed judges set it aside. And on Thursday, the high court ruled it unconstitutional.

So, in a ruling two-days before the historic presidential runoff the Egyptian Mubarak-era transitional government dissolve the entire parliament BUT decides to proceed with the presidential elections anyways. And the candidate that wins, Morsi OR Shafiq, is expected to have near dictatorial powers because there will be no parliament AND no new constitution.

Surprised? Well, you’re not alone. The leaders of the youth movement that catalyzed the entire revolution are feeling surprised too. They’re surprised and understandably feeling a little naive that they trusted either the military OR the Muslim Brotherhood. Exasperation appears to be the sentiment of the day in Egypt:

NY Times
Revolt Leaders Cite Failure to Uproot Old Order in Egypt

Published: June 14, 2012

CAIRO – They toppled a pharaoh, but now the small circle of liberals, leftists and Islamists who orchestrated Egypt’s revolution say they realize they failed to uproot the networks of power that Hosni Mubarak nurtured for nearly three decades.

They were naïve, they say, strung along by the generals who seized power in their name.

Many of the young leaders say that in those early days they were too afraid of appearing to grab power for themselves. Some say they were just intoxicated by their victory over Mr. Mubarak. “You could say we just wanted to be happy,” said Asmaa Mahfouz, another early organizer.

All now say they were successfully manipulated by the military leaders.

“We were duped,” Mr. Maher of April 6 recalled. “We met with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces on Feb. 14, and they were very cute. They smiled and promised us many things and said, ‘You are our children; you did what we wanted to do for many years!’ ” Then they offered the same smiles and vague promises the next week, he said, and the next month after that.

Others fault the Muslim Brotherhood, the 84-year-old Islamist group, Egypt’s best-organized political force. Before Mr. Mubarak’s ouster, the Brotherhood lent its full support to a united front pushing for the presidential candidacy of the Nobel Prize-winning diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei, an inspiration and mentor to the young organizers. During the revolt in Tahrir Square, the Brotherhood became a pillar of the protests, its leaders taking their cue from the youth.

But since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster, Brotherhood leaders have shown little interest in listening to the younger leaders or consulting with Mr. ElBaradei. Instead, the Brotherhood almost immediately began preparing for elections. With the generals, it backed a referendum scheduling parliamentary elections before the drafting of a new constitution.

“They betrayed us at the first corner and continue to betray us,” Ms. Moore said. The resulting timetable killed any hope of unity against the military among those mobilized by the revolt.

Yes, this has been a bad, frustrating week for Egypt’s nascent democracy and it’s important to note that the week wasn’t exactly going well before Thursday’s court ruling. As the above article pointed out, part of the liberal youth reformers growing list of frustrations was the Muslim Brotherhood’s and military’s decision to schedule the parliamentary elections before the drafting of a new constitution. That issue of the new constitution appears to be put on hold for the moment because the 100-person constitutional committee was going to draw heavily from parliamentary members which is kind of difficult now that there’s no parliament.

Still, it’s worth recalling that, had the court NOT dissolved the parliament, the composition of the constitutional draft committee was a key source of divisions between the various movements. It has been a source of conflict for months, and just last week it appeared that this issue was on track to being resolved after a rather uncharacteristic concession by the Muslim Brotherhood to reserve half the seats on the committee for secular representatives. That’s right, the same party that has been breaking promise after promise in a seemingly endless power grab was actually conceding power to dominate the drafting of Egypt’s new constitution. Too good to be true? Yep:

Egypt’s liberals walk out of constitution meeting
June 10, 2012|Aya Batrawy, Associated Press

Egyptian liberals walked out of a meeting Sunday to select members of a panel to write the country’s new constitution, charging that Islamists were trying to take seats allocated for secular parties.

The walkout could throw the writing of the constitution, which would lay out the powers of the presidency, into further disarray at a time when uncertainties mar both the course of the presidential runoff election on June 16-17 and the legality of parliament.

The dispute was part of the continuous turmoil Egypt has undergone since last year’s overthrow of longtime autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak. Protesters have been killed in battles with the military, an Islamist-majority parliament elected last year has upset liberals concerned about Egypt’s civil state and the first round of presidential elections pushed two of the most divisive candidates into the runoff.

Sunday’s dispute followed a walkout earlier this year by liberals, joined by a representative of Egypt’s premier Islamic institution, Al-Azhar, in protest at the Muslim Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafis taking most of the seats during the first attempt to select the panel writing a new constitution.

That panel was dissolved in April after the pullout.

It appeared the problem had been solved a few days ago when the country’s ruling generals and 22 parties agreed that Islamists would have just half of the seats on the 100-member panel to draft the new constitution.

Lawmaker Emad Gad of the liberal Free Egyptians Party said his group and others met Sunday to discuss their nominees for Tuesday’s panel selection when the dispute surfaced. The powerful Brotherhood and Salafi Nour Party, who together won 70 percent of the seats in parliament, were not present when the liberals walked out.

“We were talking about the division of seats between secular and Islamists as 50-50. Then we were surprised to find that all 50 were just for the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis,” he told The Associated Press.

Gad said the Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafis wanted 50 of the 100 seats on the panel for their members only and to push other Islamists into slots meant for secular parties and civil society.

He said that the Islamist Wasat Party and the more radical Gamaa Islamiya, who were present in Sunday’s meeting, were promoting their nominees for seats meant for seculars.

If the Brotherhood and Salafis take 50 seats for themselves, and 21 seats go to government institutions, it would leave just 11 seats for the remaining parties in parliament and 18 seats for “the rest of Egypt”, Gad said.

He said he understood the agreement reached on Thursday to mean that first there would be 21 seats allocated for institutions like the Coptic Church, Al-Azhar mosque, the military and ministries. He said that half of the remaining 79 seats were then supposed to go to Islamists of all affiliations.

“We hold the ruling military council responsible for not being clear enough,” Gad said. “If they want to repeat what happened last time, then they can move head on Tuesday with selecting the panel.”

Shafiq’s candidacy itself could be decided Thursday when the country’s Constitutional Court may rule on the legality of a law aimed at disqualifying him from the presidential race for serving as Mubarak’s premier.

Egyptians also await the court decision that day on a ruling by a lower court that found laws governing parliamentary elections were illegal. If the ruling is upheld, parliament could be dissolved.

Yes, as should be expected by now, the MB promised seats to the secular groups and then appeared to allocate those seats to the ultra-crazy MB-offshoot Gamaa Islamiya. There probably wasn’t too much celebrating in Egypt’s tourism sector upon hearing that news.

So did the walkout by the liberal reformers thwart the scheduled creation of the Islamist-dominated 100-person constitutional committee on Tuesday? Ummm….:

Posted on Tuesday, 06.12.12
New panel set to draft Egypt’s constitution 4 days before vote for president

CAIRO — Egypt’s Parliament on Tuesday selected a 100-member assembly to write a new constitution for the country, heading off a threat from the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that it would impose its own charter if Parliament failed to act.

The selection of the assembly came just four days before Egyptians go to the polls to select a new president amid heightened concerns about the influence of Islamists in the government. The presidential runoff pits Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, against Ahmed Shafik, a former air force general who was the last prime minister appointed by toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

Many of Morsi’s opponents have accused the Brotherhood, which dominates Parliament, of trying to control all branches of Egypt’s government, including the writing of the constitution. A previous assembly named to write the charter was dominated by Islamists, who held 70 percent of the seats, and was dissolved after liberal politicians refused to take part.

The new assembly selected Tuesday seemed designed to appeal to a broader spectrum of voters. Among those appointed were representatives of eight political parties, 28 legal and constitutional experts, seven women, 10 Muslim scholars, eight Coptic Christians, seven union representatives and seven members with ties to so-called revolutionary parties or victims of violence during the anti-Mubarak uprising last year.

But Islamists still had a major presence, provoking complaints from 10 political parties that announced they’d boycott the panel’s work.

Among the panel’s members were Emad Abdelghafor, the head of the Nour Party, which draws its support from followers of conservative Salafi Islam; Essam el Erian, the secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party; and Sheikh Yasser Burhami, the secretary-general of Egypt’s Salafi Call Movement.

“All this effort was wasted because the political Islam current insists on controlling the assembly and preferring their narrow personal interest to that of the public,” the 10 parties said in a statement, referring to the roles in the assembly of the Freedom and Justice Party and the Nour Party.

Also named to the panel was Gen. Mamdouh Shahin, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

According to the interim constitution, the assembly must draft a new charter in six months, a deadline that legal scholars said was unreasonable. Rushing the process, they warn, will result in an incomplete document that will lead to more instability.

“This is absolute rubbish,” Hossam Issa, a law professor at Ain Shams University in Cairo, said about the timeline.

With the majority of the assembly members belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, some analysts predicted that a Morsi victory would lead to greater powers for the president. A Shafik victory would lead to few powers, said Fouda Rafat, a law professor at Cairo University.

The biggest mistake of the constitution-writing process already has happened, however, Rafat said.

“They chose to hold the election before writing the constitution. They put, as you Americans say, the cart before horse.”

So before the MB-dominated parliament was dissolved, observers were speculating that a win by the MB in the presidential election would result in greater presidential constitutional powers while a win by Shafiq will lead the constitutional panel to place more limits on those powers. And now, with no parliament and no constitutional committee, it doesn’t matter who wins: Egypt is potentially electing a dictator this weekend.

What a week.


13 comments for “Egypt returns to the square. Square one.”

  1. In in wake of a historic runoff where the scope of powers of the newly elected president is thrown into question following the dissolution of the parliament and the constitutional committee, one might wonder just who’s going to be in charge in Egypt and how much power are they going to have in the interim while the new path forward gets laid down. The Egyptian military just answered that question. Not much:

    Washington Post
    Egypt military issues decree giving armed forces sweeping powers as early results of presidential vote trickle in

    By Leila Fadel and Ernesto Londoño, Updated: Sunday, June 17, 4:41 PM

    CAIRO – Shortly after polls in Egypt’s landmark presidential vote closed Sunday night, Egypt’s military leaders issued a constitutional decree that gave the armed forces vast powers and appeared to give the presidency a subservient role.

    The declaration, published in the official state gazette, establishes that the president will have no control over the military’s budget or leadership and will not be authorized to declare war without the consent of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

    The document said the military would soon appoint a body to draft a new constitution, which would be put to a public referendum within three months. Once a new charter is in place, an election will be held to chose a parliament that will replace the Islamist-dominated one dissolved Thursday by the country’s top court.

    You have to wonder just how different the reorganization of civil society and government will be if we see a repeat of the showdown in Tahrir Square between the public and the military.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 17, 2012, 2:41 pm
  2. There are some past predictions at the end of this article that are topically troubling:

    Al Arabiya
    Egypt could plunge into Algeria like scenario of bloody violence: Algerian Islamists

    Sunday, 17 June 2012

    By Ramadan Belamry

    Egypt could plunge into an “Algeria like scenario” of bloody violence after the ruling military council executed a court order to dissolve the country’s elected parliament, Algerian Islamist leaders warned on Sunday.

    Algeria experienced a decade-long civil war which witnessed exceptional savagery and bloody violence when the military intervened in 1992 to unseat President Chadli Bendjedid and cancel the second round of an election after the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) won the first round.

    Former FIS founder el-Hachemi Sahnouni described events in Egypt in the past few days “as an explicit coup against the people’s will, and it would only bring about evil regardless of what the military council says.”

    Sahnouni told Al Arabiya that he was “worried that the biggest Arab country might plunge into violence similar to what occurred in Algeria.”

    “If this happens, it will be a catastrophe not only for Egypt but for all of the Arab countries.”

    Sahnouni added that the dissolution of Egypt’s Islamist-dominated parliament was “similar to what happened in Algeria in 1991.”

    Before it announced running for presidential elections, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement warned in March 2012 that the country could experience an Algerian like scenario if “other forces” tried to “block the Islamic trend.”

    “If the Islamic trend tries to become dominant in positions of authority, we could encounter big problems,” said Mohamed el-Beltagi, Brotherhood leader, according to Egypt Independent.
    “If the other forces strive to block or censor the Islamic trend we will encounter a bigger problem,” he added.

    (Translated from Arabic by Mustapha Ajbaili)

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 19, 2012, 10:59 pm
  3. It’s hard to know what exactly to expect upon reading this update on Egypt’s presidential election, but three words come to mind:

    Duck and cover:

    Report: Shafik to be named Egyptian president
    By the CNN Wire Staff
    updated 1:28 PM EDT, Fri June 22, 2012

    Cairo (CNN) — Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister under former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, will be named the country’s new president on Sunday, the semi-official Ahram Online news site reported Friday, citing several unnamed government sources.

    There’s been no official confirmation from the leadership in Cairo as the country anxiously awaited the results of last week’s run-off election between Shafik and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, both of whom have claimed they’ve won the election.

    Shafik will be declared victor with 50.7% of the vote, the news outlet said.

    Sources at the country’s presidential election commission would not confirm claims of Shafik’s victory. Thousands gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the center of last year’s revolution that led to the toppling of Mubarak, as the news report circulated.

    Earlier Friday, Egypt’s military rulers said they won’t reverse their widely deplored constitutional and judicial changes and warned politicians to keep a lid on election-related unrest.

    “We will face anyone who will pose a challenge to the public and private sectors with an iron fist,” the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said.

    Military rulers dissolved the lower house of parliament last week, extending their power and sparking accusations of a coup.

    Egypt’s Presidential Election Commission has delayed, from Thursday until a date to be announced, the release of the results of the elections. An electoral official said authorities are reviewing around 400 electoral violation reports submitted by the two candidates.

    Egyptian reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei — the former head of U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency and the winner of a Nobel Peace Prize — said he’s been in close contact with the military council and the intelligence services on the one hand, and Morsi on the other, and has urged them to avoid a showdown.

    He said if Shafik, seen as a candidate of the pro-Mubarak old guard, is declared the winner “we are in for a lot of instability and violence … a major uprising.” He isn’t as worried about a Morsi victory because Shafik supporters are unlikely to take their anger to the streets, he said.

    He described the current situation as “a total, complete 100 percent mess.”

    Muslim Brotherhood lawmakers met with political leaders to discuss plans for a coalition to fight what they believe is a power grab by the military, according to the Facebook page of its Freedom and Justice Party.

    “We will NOT accept this coup against democracy,” it said, adding that “together, we will march on to complete the revolution.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 22, 2012, 10:28 am
  4. It’s official. Morsi takes it:

    NY Times
    For Islamists in Egypt, Morsi Victory Is a Symbolic Win

    Published: June 24, 2012

    CAIRO – Egypt’s military rulers on Sunday officially recognized Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood as the winner of Egypt’s first competitive presidential election, handing the Islamists both a symbolic triumph and a potent weapon in their struggle for power against the country’s senior generals.

    Mr. Morsi, 60, an American-trained engineer and former lawmaker, is the first Islamist elected as head of an Arab state. But 16 months after the military took over at the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, Mr. Morsi’s victory is an ambiguous milestone in Egypt’s promised transition to democracy.

    After a week of doubt, delays and fears of a coup since a public ballot count showed Mr. Morsi ahead, the generals have proven a measure of respect for at least some core element electoral democracy – they have accepted a political opponent over their ally, former General Ahmed Shafik, after a vote that international monitors called credible.

    But Mr. Morsi’s recognition as president does little to resolve the larger standoff between the generals and the Brotherhood over the institutions of government and the future constitution. With just two weeks to go until their promised exit from power by June 30, the generals instead shut down the democratically elected and Islamist-led Parliament; took over its powers to make laws and set budgets; decreed an interim constitution stripping the new president of most of his power; and re-imposed martial law by authorizing soldiers to arrest civilians. And the general gave themselves an effective veto over provisions of a planned permanent constitution as well.

    After 84 years as an often outlawed secret society struggling in the prisons and shadows of monarchs and dictators, the Brotherhood is now closer than ever to its stated goal of building an Islamist democracy in Egypt. “In my dreams I wanted this to happen, but it is unbelievable,” said Hudaida Hassan, a 20-year-old from Menoufiya.

    Even in a victorious moment, however, the Brotherhood’s leadership acknowledged that the struggle was far from over: leaders immediately pledged to continue the sit-in, fighting on in the courts and in the streets to restore the Parliament. And in his first statement as president-elect, Mr. Morsi vowed to swear the oath of office before the seated Parliament and not before the Supreme Constitutional Court as the generals had decreed.

    Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the chairman of the military council, congratulated Mr. Morsi. The Brotherhood’s political arm said on its Web site that the official presidential guard who previously protected Mr. Mubarak had arrived at Mr. Morsi’s home to begin protecting him. It was a stark contrast from the days less than two years ago when the arrival of armed officers at the home of a Brotherhood leader inevitably meant a trip to one of Mr. Mubarak’s jails.

    Fulfilling a campaign pledge to represent all Egyptians, Mr. Morsi resigned from the Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. State media reported Sunday morning that the prime minister and cabinet would resign immediately, making way for Mr. Morsi to appoint his own team. As the Brotherhood has reached out to rebuild alliances with liberal and other secular activists for its contest with the generals, Mr. Morsi has pledged to name a prime minister and other top officials from outside the Brotherhood as part of a unity government.

    At the same time, however, Mr. Morsi has always campaigned not as an individual with a vision of his own but rather as an executor of the Brotherhood’s platform. He was the group’s second choice nominee, put forward after the disqualification of the group’s lead strategist and most influential leader, Khairat el-Shater, and Mr. Morsi has vowed to carry out the program Mr. Shater has spent more than a year devising to reform and remake Egypt’s government ministries. Mr. Morsi and Mr. Shater have never effectively dispel accusations that Mr. Shater would wield the true power in a Morsi government.

    Even after the two-month presidential campaign, Mr. Morsi remains an unfamiliar figure to most Egyptians. He earned a doctoral degree in materials engineering at the University of Southern California in 1982 – putting him in the United States for the tumultuous years after Islamists assassinated President Anwar Sadat and President Muabrak cracked down on the Brotherhood.

    Those who knew him in Los Angeles say Mr. Morsi never appeared notably political or religious. But he returned to teach at Zagazig University in the Nile Delta, where he became a leader in the Brotherhood and eventually won of its first members of the Mubarak-dominated Parliament.

    He was picked by higher-ups to lead the Brotherhood’s small parliamentary bloc, which then including just 18 members out of more than 500 lawmakers. He thus played a key role in the group’s first experiment in multiparty electoral democracy and coalition building. But in subsequent years, as he was elevated to the Brotherhood’s governing board, he gained the reputation as an internal enforcer, known for discouraging voices of dissent.

    When the Brotherhood adopted a hypothetical draft party platform in 2007 that cited Islamic tenets as requiring that neither a women nor a non-Muslim should be eligible to be Egypt’s president, Mr. Morsi was a chief defender of those planks, internally and externally.

    Since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster, the Brotherhood has jettisoned those positions from its platform. But during the campaign, Mr. Morsi said that as a personal matter he still believed the presidency should go only to a male Muslim.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 24, 2012, 12:52 pm
  5. If you thought this roller coaster ride was coming to an end…you would be wrong. Loop-d-loops lie ahead:

    Egypt’s legislature convenes despite court ruling

    CAIRO (AP) – Egypt’s Islamist-dominated parliament opened a new front in the country’s leadership showdowns Tuesday by meeting in defiance of orders that disbanded the chamber and brought President Mohammed Morsi in conflict with both the powerful military and the highest court.

    The session was brief – lasting just five minutes – and suggested that lawmakers sought more of a symbolic stance rather than a full-scale backlash against rulings that invalidated the chamber over apparent irregularities in Egypt’s first elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak 17 months ago.

    But it further nudged Egypt deeper into a potential power struggle between Morsi and military chiefs, who have vowed to uphold the judicial ruling that led to parliament being dissolved last month.

    For the moment, all sides appear to be moving with some caution in acknowledgment of Egypt’s volatile backdrop: The military with the power to clamp down on dissent but without widespread support on the streets where Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood is strong.

    Security forces made no attempt to block lawmakers as they arrived at the parliament building in central Cairo.

    In the background, meanwhile, a special panel is working on Egypt’s post-Mubarak constitution and an all-out battle between the rising Brotherhood and the country’s old guard establishment could send the entire process into a tailspin.

    The crisis atmosphere has grown steadily since Morsi issued an order Sunday to reconvene the 508-seat legislature. His executive order said it was revoking the military’s June 15 order to disband the chamber based on the previous ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court.

    The court said a third of the chamber’s members were elected illegally by allowing candidates from political parties to contest seats set aside for independent candidates. The court was expected to rule later Tuesday on three cases questioning the legality of the president’s order. A lower court also looking into complaints against Morsi’s order postponed its decision until July 17.

    Morsi’s presidential decree also called for new parliamentary elections after a new constitution is adopted, which is not expected before the end of the year. In effect, it puts the current parliament in a sort of caretaker status – raising further speculation that Morsi could be buying time with the current defiance.

    The dispute over the fate of parliament has divided the nation just as Egyptians hoped for a semblance of stability after the tumult since the Arab Spring ouster of Mubarak. Egypt has seen a dramatic surge in crime, deadly street protests, a faltering economy and seemingly non-stop strikes, sit-ins and demonstrations.

    Lots of loop-d-loops.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 10, 2012, 7:55 am
  6. A ‘civilian counter-coup’ coordinated with an internal putsch. That sounds like a done deal:

    Egypt president sweeps out army rulers

    By Edmund Blair

    CAIRO | Mon Aug 13, 2012 11:00am EDT

    (Reuters) – Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has driven back the biggest challenge to civilian rule by dismissing top generals and tearing up their legal attempt to curb his power in a bold bid to end 60 years of military leadership.

    Taking the country by surprise, Mursi pushed Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi into retirement. The 76-year-old figurehead of the old order, he took charge of the biggest Arab nation when Hosni Mubarak fell last year and remained head of its powerful, ad hoc military council after the Islamist was elected in June.

    The armed forces, which had supplied Egypt’s presidents for six decades after ousting the monarchy, have shown no sign of challenging the move announced late on Sunday, though a senior judge did speak up on Monday to question Mursi’s right to act.

    Lower-ranking generals and other officers may, however, support a change that shifts power in the military to a new generation. One analyst said Mursi mounted a “civilian counter-coup” coordinated with an internal putsch in the armed forces.

    State media cited a military source dismissing talk of any “negative reactions” by the generals to a decision which, given their earlier dissolution of parliament, now hands Mursi what liberal critic Mohamed ElBaradei described as “imperial powers”.

    Mursi and his long-suppressed Muslim Brotherhood had been expected to roll back the influence of the army, a close ally of Washington and recipient of $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid; but many had predicted a process that would take years of delicate diplomacy to avoid sparking a military backlash.

    Instead, just six weeks after he was sworn into office and seemingly taking advantage of a military debacle on the Sinai border that embarrassed the army, Mursi announced sweeping changes in the high command and reshaped Egypt’s politics.

    “Mursi settles the struggle for power,” said a headline in the state-owned Al-Akhbar daily, a newspaper that is traditionally a mouthpiece for the army-backed establishment.

    “Mursi ends the political role for the armed forces,” wrote the independent Al-Masry Al-Youm. Another, Tahrir, called it the “president’s revolution against the military”.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 13, 2012, 1:34 pm
  7. Well that didn’t take long:

    Egypt’s Islamist president now has powers that rival authoritarian predecessor Mubarak

    By Associated Press, Updated: Tuesday, August 14, 3:34 PM

    CAIRO — Egypt’s Islamist president has given himself the right to legislate and control over the drafting of a new constitution. He has installed at the top of the powerful military a defense minister likely to be beholden to him.

    Under Mohammed Morsi’s authority, officials have moved to silence influential critics in the media. And though a civilian, he declared himself in charge of military operations against militants in the Sinai peninsula.

    Over the weekend, Morsi ordered the retirement of the defense minister and chief of staff and reclaimed key powers the military seized from him days before he took office on June 30. With that, Egypt’s first freely elected president amassed in his own hands powers that rival those of his ousted authoritarian predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

    If left unchecked, there are fears Morsi and his fundamentalist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, could turn the clock back on the country’s tumultuous shift to democratic rule and pursue their goal of someday turning the most populous Arab nation into an Islamic state.

    The Brotherhood already won both parliamentary and presidential elections after the uprising last year that forced Mubarak out. The question now is whether there is any institution in the country that can check the power of Morsi and the Brotherhood and stop them from taking over the nation’s institutions and consolidating their grip.

    “Are we looking at a president determined to dismantle the machine of tyranny … or one who is retooling the machine of tyranny to serve his interests, removing the military’s hold on the state so he can lay the foundations for the authority of the Brotherhood?” prominent rights activist and best-selling novelist Alaa al-Aswani wrote in an article published Tuesday in an independent daily.

    “He must correct these mistakes and assure us through actions that he is a president of all Egyptians,” wrote the secular al-Aswani before warning that Egyptians will never allow Morsi to turn Egypt into a “Brotherhood state.”

    Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, the country’s top reform leader, issued a similar warning on Monday. After Morsi stripped the military of legislative authority, and in the absence of parliament, he cautioned that the president holds “imperial powers.”

    Now Morsi is in effect both the executive and legislative branches combined. And his backers are showing some tell-tale signs of wielding power unchecked.

    Last week, Brotherhood members of parliament’s upper house named 50 new editors of state-owned publications, many of them known to be sympathetic to the group. The move tightened the Brotherhood’s stranglehold on the media after one of its members took over the Information Ministry in a newly appointed Cabinet backed by the group and led by a devout Muslim.

    Morsi and the Brotherhood remained silent when a mob of supporters attacked a media complex in a Cairo suburb, smashing offices and cars to punish critics of the president. Supporters also intimidate and sometimes scuffle with protesters outside the presidential palace.

    And though he is a civilian, the president declared himself to be running military operations against radical Muslims in Sinai after suspected militants killed 16 Egyptian soldiers on the border with Israel on Aug. 5.

    Morsi, according to insiders, is expected to press ahead with efforts to expand the Brotherhood’s control.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 14, 2012, 2:29 pm
  8. Just a quick update…Morsi has now acquired “super powers”:

    Egypt president names mainly Islamist adviser team

    By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press – 22 hours ago

    CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s Islamist president Mohammed Morsi on Monday named a team of 21 advisers and aides that includes three women and two Christians and a large number of Islamist-leaning figures, backing off campaign promises to appoint a Christian and a woman as vice presidents.

    The move is the latest by Morsi, a longtime member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was inaugurated in late June, to establish his authority and break with the era of ousted President Hosni Mubarak by forming his own leadership.

    Morsi’s office has sought to depict him as independent of the Brotherhood and as a leader who wants to bring a wider political spectrum behind him, including liberals — but the Brotherhood still holds the preponderance of power in his administration.

    In midst of a fierce presidential election campaign earlier this year, Morsi sought to broaden his support and allay fears of Brotherhood dominance by promising to appoint a youth, a woman and a Christian to vice president posts. The promise brought an outcry from ultraconservative Islamists known as Salafis who said they would not accept a Christian or woman vice president, since they say neither is allowed to serve as head of state.

    Since Morsi’s inauguration, some Brotherhood officials have contended he was forced into the promises, signaling that he would likely back down. Earlier this month, Morsi appointed a senior judge, Mahmoud Mekki, as vice president. When asked, Morsi’s spokesman Yasser Ali told reporters that there will be only one vice president for the time being.

    Instead, Ali on Monday announced the formation of Morsi’s “presidential team,” which includes four senior aides and a 17-member council of advisers, which includes seven figures seen as political liberals and 10 who have Islamist leanings of various degrees.

    The rolling back of the promises reflects Morsi’s growing confidence as a president who holds “super powers” exceeding those of his predecessors, said Nabil Abdel-Fatah, a scholar with Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. Morsi holds both executive power and legislative authority after he sidelined the top military generals who ruled Egypt after Mubarak’s ouster on Feb. 11. 2011. The generals had dissolved parliament and taken on legislative powers, so when they were sidelined, Morsi seized the power to make laws — a power he has used once so far.

    “The announcement of the new team has nothing to do with the promises Morsi made before,” said Abdel-Fatah. “Those chose will pose no challenge to the president … this is only for cosmetic purposes.”

    Abdel-Fatah said the appointments suggested Morsi does not want to share powers with a vice president. “This is just another sign that we are heading to a deadlock with the Brotherhood insisting on monopolizing power,” he said.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 28, 2012, 10:49 am
  9. Here’s an update on the ever evolving Egyptian political situation: We just passed the 100 day marker of Mohammed Morsi’s term and the reviews are not exactly supportive:

    Egypt’s liberals, Islamists clash, 110 reported injured

    By Yasmine Saleh and Marwa Awad

    CAIRO | Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:45pm EDT

    (Reuters) – Opponents and supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi clashed in Cairo on Friday in the first street violence between rival factions since the Islamist leader took office.

    Islamists and their opponents threw stones, bottles and petrol bombs, and some fought hand-to-hand, showing how feelings still run high between the rival groups trying to shape the new Egypt after decades of autocracy, although the streets have generally been calmer since Mursi’s election in June.

    The Health Ministry said 110 people had sustained light to moderate injuries, state media reported.

    A government is in place, but Islamists and liberals are at loggerheads over the drafting of the new constitution, which must be agreed before a new parliament can be elected.


    Some demonstrators pulled down a temporary podium that had been erected on a side of the square for speeches. Later, Islamists took over the square, triggering scuffles in nearby streets as they tried to keep rival groups out.

    Two buses parked near the square were set alight. Witnesses said they had been used by the Brotherhood to bring in supporters.

    The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in a statement expressed its “sorrow” over what happened to the buses it said were used to bring members to Cairo. It also condemned an attack on the Brotherhood’s headquarters in the industrial city of El-Mahalla El-Kubra.

    “We went to protest against the constituent assembly and Mursi’s failure in his 100 days, and Islamists prevented us and are now controlling the square,” said Islam Wagdy, 19, a member of a group set up by leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahy.

    An FJP spokesman denied this. “What happened today was an attempt by the liberal powers … to prevent Islamists expressing their views and protesting in Tahrir, which belongs to all Egyptians and not to a certain current,” Ahmed Sobeih said.

    There was no intervention by police, who have often been the target of protesters’ anger because of their brutality against demonstrators in last year’s revolt.

    The Brotherhood, which joined Friday’s protest, had said it should focus on this week’s court ruling.

    The charge by men on camels and horseback was one of the most violent incidents of the uprising that ousted Mubarak in February 2011. The case has been closely watched by those seeking justice for the hundreds killed in the revolt.

    The court acquitted top Mubarak-era officials such as former lower house speaker Fathi Sorour and Mubarak aide Safwat Sherif, both of whom are scorned by many Egyptians.

    In an apparent bid to appease the public, the president had said late on Thursday he was moving Abdel Maguid Mahmoud out of that position to make him ambassador to the Vatican, because Egyptian law prevented him being dismissed.

    Mahmoud denounced the move and told Egyptian media he would stay on. The influential judges’ club condemned the decision as interference and called for a meeting of judicial officials on Sunday to discuss action, the state news agency reported.

    Even some political groups who wanted Mahmoud out questioned the way Mursi had done it. The liberal Free Egyptians Party said changing the prosecutor should be an independent judicial move.

    First off, it turns out that this entire time we all thought Morsi was supposed to be the “uncharismatic” B-team stand-in for Kharait el-Shater but he’s actually the master of the deadpan delivery. Making the Vatican ambassadorship the “punishment” assignment for chief prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahhoud? Ha! He couldn’t “fire” Abdel so he sends him to purgatory….at the Vatican. And totally deadpanned. Classic! He’s channeling Kaufman(get well soon Jerry). Sure, Morsi ended up backing down on the reassignment threat, but that whole skit still showed potential.

    Secondly, and as evidenced by the burning buses and general mayhem, the creation and ratification of the new Egyptian constitution is going to continue to be a BIG issue going forward. It an historic step into a permanent post-military-rule era that requires enormous compromise from all parties across Egypt’s new multi-polar political spectrum. The new constitution is also guaranteed to be highly controversial since there appears to be a Muslim Brotherhood/Salafist attempt to use this historic opportunity to officially enshrine the Muslim Brotherhood’s/Salafist’s religious pet peeves into Egypt’s civilian life. Permanently. Burning buses certainly isn’t/aren’t good. Neither is ambiguously applicable conjugation. Or theocracy:

    Liberals struggling to prevent Islamist domination in writing of Egypt’s new constitution
    By Associated Press,

    CAIRO — Islamists are seeking to enshrine in Egypt’s long-awaited new constitution a number of articles that secularists and liberals fear would bring theocratic rule and severely set back civil liberties, including provisions that could empower clerics to review laws and would stipulate that women’s rights cannot violate Shariah law or “family duties.”

    Liberals and secularists have been struggling to keep out the provisions, but are finding themselves outnumbered and vulnerable to being overruled on the 100-member assembly that is writing the charter meant to set the path for post-revolution Egypt.

    The assembly, where Islamists hold a majority, has been debating the constitution over nearly 50 sessions during the past months. But the wrangling has heated up as the body gets closer to voting on a final draft, which would then be put to a yes-or-no referendum by the public, expected by the end of the year. Liberals, however, say they have few tools to block Islamists’ demands other than walking out of the assembly — a step they have wavered on taking for fear or losing their voice entirely.

    Around 100 women protested against the Islamists’ provisions Tuesday outside the upper house of parliament, where the assembly has been holding its sessions. They chanted against a “religious state” and shouted, “Down with the rule of the Brotherhood.”

    Magda Adly, one rights activist at the gathering, warned of “a constitution that only sees women as tasked to make babies,” saying the Islamists’ provisions would open the door to dramatically lowering the marriage age for women and ending restrictions on female genital mutilation.

    Battles also spilled into the courtroom Tuesday as a Cairo court convened to examine nearly 40 suits calling for the assembly to be disbanded. Lawyers from the two sides pushed and shoved each other in shouting matches that forced the judges to postpone the hearing for a week. If the court eventually orders the assembly disbanded, Islamist President Mohammed Morsi would form the new one, and liberals’ have little faith it would be any more favorable to them.

    The constitution has been long awaited as a key step in establishing a democracy in Egypt after last year’s ouster of autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak. The uprising that forced Mubarak out was led by progressive, secular activists who rallied public anger over worsening poverty, the monopoly on power by Mubarak’s ruling party, rampant corruption and widespread abuses by security and intelligence agencies.

    But in the nearly 20 months since, Islamists have emerged as the strongest political power. Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, is a veteran figure from the Muslim Brotherhood, which dominated parliamentary elections last year. Also powerful are the ultraconservative Salafis, who call for an even stricter implementation of Islamic Shariah law than the Brotherhood.

    Some parts of the new charter that appear to have consensus so far would set a more democratic system for Egypt, reducing the overwhelming powers that the president has long held and increasing the authorities of parliament.

    But a number of articles put forward by Islamists have raised liberals’ concerns.

    One proposal would establish a powerful political role for Egypt’s premier Islamic institution, Al-Azhar, saying the opinion of its top clerics would be “the final or main reference for the state in whatever is related to Shariah law.” Some fear that would establish an Iranian-style system where clerics oversee laws passed by parliament. Al-Azhar is generally seen as a moderate body, but conservatives and Salafis have been gaining influence in its ranks.

    “Islamists will continue to rule the country through this institution (Al-Azhar) even if they lose elections,” the National Front For Justice and Democracy, an independent group monitoring the assembly’s deliberations, said in a recent report.

    There has been a sharp debate over revising the second article of the previous constitution which says the “principles of Shariah” are the main source of legislation. Many Islamists see that language as too vague and want it changed to “the rulings of Shariah,” which they see as providing for a more strict adherence to their interpretation of Islamic law.

    In other Islamist-backed articles, women would enjoy equal rights as men as long as they do not “violate Shariah” or “family duties.” Islamists also blocked attempts to introduce a clause guaranteeing Egypt’s adherence to international treaties it has already joined on ending discrimination against women. They worried that such a clause could be used to ban female genital mutilation or prevent lowering of the marriage age, which they saw are allowed under Shariah. Some Salafi sheiks have called for allowing girls to be married with the onset of puberty.

    Another proposed clause would stipulate that Christians and Jews have the right to abide by their “own religious laws” and choose “their religious leadership,” a provision that Islamists say protects minorities. Critics say it contradicts the principles of equal citizenship and enshrines a second-class status.

    Another article would recognize the right of Christians and Jews to conduct their rituals and build places of worship, but on the condition they do not “violate public order.” That could allow lawmakers to maintain restrictions on the building of churches, since church construction has often prompted sectarian strife in the past.

    Other clauses are heavy with vague references to preserving the “morals” and “traditions” of Egyptian society, which critics fear could be used to restrict freedoms of speech and political activity.

    “This is a disaster,” said leftist politician Hussein Abdel-Razek. “The proposed articles reflect the core of political Islam currents like the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis. They are autocratic and repressive at heart.”

    Nehad Aboul-Qomsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women rights, raised a warning over the rights women won over the years, saying, “We are losing them now.”

    As a regional leader, Egypt is one of those countries that’s bigger than itself so Egypt’s new constitution is a huge deal globally because we all need Egypt’s neighborhood to get on track ASAP. Egypt just spent 30+ years under military rule and has enough urgent problems on its own, it doesn’t need to spend the next three decades wallowing under the rule of power-hungry Islamists. So it’s quite a pleasant turn of events for the global community that the current crop of Egyptian youths that are up to the task of making a real viable future for the country. But that viable future for Egypt’s assumes folks like Morsi don’t muck up Egypt’s constitution with a permanent MB-veto. Given their significant organizational advantages at the moment, the MB will probably be able to engage in quite a bit of constitutional mucking during this first round. But it’s important to keep in mind that we’re still in the early stages of Egypt’s post-Mubarak future. It’s going to be very interesting to watch this generation of young Egyptians going forward because if Morsi’s “first 100 days” reviews are any indication of what to expect, the Muslim Brotherhood short-term “youth problem” could turn into a long-term “most of Egypt’s adults problem”. And then there’s the current problem with the chief prosecutor, Mr. Mahmoud. The one that wasn’t sent to purgatory at the Vatican. He’s still the chief prosecutor:

    Egypt Brotherhood Officials Investigated Over Protest Clashes
    By Salma El Wardany and Ahmed El-Sayed on October 15, 2012

    Egyptian Prosecutor-General Abdel- Meguid Mahmoud has ordered an investigation into allegations two top Muslim Brotherhood officials incited attacks on women during a Cairo protest last week, his office said.

    The investigation of Mohamed El-Beltagy and Essam El-Erian stemmed from Oct. 12 clashes between secular groups and members of the Brotherhood’s political party that left over 140 injured. The incident underscored the tensions that have built up between Islamists backing President Mohamed Mursi and secularists who have grown increasingly worried about the Islamists’ hold on government.

    Mahmoud’s order comes days after he defied Mursi’s attempt to remove him from office, a move criticized by the judiciary as an attempt by the president to encroach on their independence and authority. Mursi later said Mahmoud would remain in his post instead of being sent off as Egypt’s ambassador to the Vatican.

    The complaints were filed with Mahmoud’s office by at least one female activist who alleged the Brotherhood supporters attacked women at the demonstration.

    The clashes occurred as the Brotherhood organized a protest against the acquittal of several top officials from ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s government on charges of involvement in the so-called “Battle of the Camel,” in which protesters were killed during last year’s revolt. Separately, other groups protested both the acquittals and Mursi’s rule.

    Yep. Lot’s of long-term problems for the MB and Salafists. Winning hearts and minds can be difficult when you lack both. Even when you learn from the best.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 15, 2012, 9:25 pm
  10. Sweet sweet unchecked power. It’s good to be the king president:

    Egypt’s Morsy gives himself new powers, orders retrials in protester deaths
    From Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, CNN
    updated 6:32 PM EST, Thu November 22, 2012

    (CNN) — Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy has issued an order preventing any court from overturning his decisions, essentially allowing him to run the country unchecked until a new constitution is drafted, his spokesman announced on state TV Thursday.

    Political rivals also expressed dismay Thursday evening.

    “Morsy is taking over the executive, judicial, and legislative powers in his hands, and this is a dangerous path,” said the Twitter account of Hamdeen Sabahy, a former presidential candidate.

    “Morsy has issued immunity to any laws he issues. This is the birth of a new dictator,” tweeted Khaled Ali, another former presidential candidate.

    Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, meanwhile, stood outside the general prosecutor’s office Thursday to support Morsy’s decrees.

    Morsy declared that any laws or decrees he’s made since he took office June 30, and until a new constitution is put in place, are final and cannot be overturned or appealed, his spokesman said on state-run TV.

    Morsy also declared that a 100-man council drafting a new constitution, plus the upper house of parliament, cannot be dissolved. And he granted the council two more months to finish a draft constitution, meaning the panel has six months to finish.

    That means Morsy, who earlier this year took over legislative powers from the military council that ruled after Mubarak’s ouster, could have at least six months of unchecked rule by decree. The draft constitution would go to a referendum before it is finalized.

    He also fired Egypt’s general prosecutor, who had taken criticism from protesters in recent months because they believe prosecutions over demonstrators’ deaths were insufficient. Morsy swore in Talaat Ibrahim as the new general prosecutor on Thursday.

    Morsy’s moves come three days after the start of violent protests in central Cairo, largely by people angry at Morsy’s government and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement to which Morsy belongs. They also come amid turmoil in the constitution panel, which has been torn between conservatives wanting the constitution to mandate Egypt be governed by Islam’s Sharia law, and moderates and liberals who want it to say that Egypt be governed by principles of Sharia.

    The announcements also come a day after Morsy helped broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas after an eight-day conflict between the sides.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 22, 2012, 4:31 pm
  11. It’s looking more and more like Egypt might be in for another revolution. Morsi is refusing to back down on his power grab while simultaneously calling for ‘dialogue’ with opposition so they could plan together on how to move Egypt forward after the constitution is ratified. And the opposition does not appear to be interested in more ‘dialogue’ with Morsi:

    Protesters surge around Egypt’s presidential palace
    By Edmund Blair and Yasmine Saleh

    CAIRO | Fri Dec 7, 2012 2:13pm EST

    (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Egyptian protesters surged around President Mohamed Mursi’s palace in Cairo on Friday after breaking through barbed wire barricades and climbing onto army tanks guarding the premises.

    “The people want the downfall of the regime” and “Leave, leave,” they chanted, using slogans used in the uprising that toppled Mursi’s predecessor Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

    Opposition leaders earlier rejected a national dialogue proposed by the Islamist president as a way out of a crisis that has polarized the nation and provoked deadly street clashes.

    Elite Republican Guard units had ringed the palace with tanks and barbed wire on Thursday after a night of violence between Islamist supporters of Mursi and their opponents, in which seven people were killed and 350 wounded.

    Islamists, who had obeyed a military order for demonstrators to leave the palace environs, held funerals on Friday at Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque for six Mursi partisans who were among the dead. “With our blood and souls, we sacrifice to Islam,” they chanted.

    Mursi had offered few concessions in a speech late on Thursday, refusing to retract a November 22 decree in which he assumed sweeping powers or cancel a referendum next week on a constitution newly drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly.

    Instead, he called for a dialogue at his office on Saturday to chart a way forward for Egypt after the referendum, an idea that liberal, leftist and other opposition leaders rebuffed.

    They have demanded that Mursi rescind the decree in which he temporarily shielded his decisions from judicial review and that he postpone the December 15 referendum before any talks begin.

    A leader of the main opposition coalition said it would not join Mursi’s dialogue: “The National Salvation Front is not taking part in the dialogue,” said Ahmed Said, a leader of the coalition, who also heads the liberal Free Egyptians Party.

    The Front’s coordinator, Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace laureate, urged “national forces” to shun what he called an offer based on “arm-twisting and imposition of a fait accompli”.

    Murad Ali, spokesman of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), said opposition reactions were sad: “What exit to this crisis do they have other than dialogue?” he asked.

    Mursi’s decree giving himself extra powers sparked the worst political crisis since he took office in June and set off renewed unrest that is dimming Egypt’s hopes of stability and economic recovery after nearly two years of turmoil following the overthrow of Mubarak, a military-backed strongman.

    The turmoil has exposed contrasting visions for Egypt, one held by Islamists, who were suppressed for decades by the army, and another by their rivals, who fear religious conservatives want to squeeze out other voices and restrict social freedoms.

    Caught in the middle are many of Egypt’s 83 million people who are desperate for an end to political turbulence threatening their precarious livelihoods in an economy under severe strain.

    “We are so tired, by God,” said Mohamed Ali, a laborer. “I did not vote for Mursi nor anyone else. I only care about bringing food to my family, but I haven’t had work for a week.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 7, 2012, 1:19 pm
  12. @Pterrafractyl: Thanks for covering this on here! People needed to hear this, I think. At least there’s some hope that the MB’s moves to secure ultimate power in that country will backfire on them…..we can only hope, anyway. =)

    Posted by Steven L. | December 8, 2012, 2:39 pm
  13. It was another whirlwind day for Egypt’s crisis. First, we get reports that Morsi is planning on declaring martial law and calling in the military:

    Morsi Is Seen on a Path to Imposing Martial Law in Egypt

    Published: December 8, 2012

    CAIRO — Struggling to quell street protests and political violence, President Mohamed Morsi is moving to impose a version of martial law by calling on the armed forces to keep order and authorizing soldiers to arrest civilians, Egyptian state media announced Saturday.

    If Mr. Morsi goes through with the plan, it would represent a historic role reversal. For decades, Egypt’s military-backed authoritarian presidents had used martial law to hold on to power and to punish Islamists like Mr. Morsi, who spent months in jail under a similar decree.

    A turn back to the military would also come just four months after Mr. Morsi managed to pry political power out of the hands of the country’s powerful generals, who led a transitional government after the ouster of the longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak.

    The flagship state newspaper Al Ahram reported that Mr. Morsi “will soon issue a decision for the participation of the armed forces in the duties of maintaining security and protection of vital state institutions.” The military would maintain its expanded role until the completion of a referendum on a draft constitution next Saturday and the election of a new Parliament expected two months after that.

    Mr. Morsi has not yet formally issued the order reported in Al Ahram, raising the possibility that the newspaper announcement was intended as a warning to his opponents. Although the plan would not fully suspend the civil law, it would nonetheless have the effect of suspending legal rights by empowering soldiers under the control of the defense minister to try civilians in military courts.

    Moataz Abdel-Fattah, a former adviser to Egypt’s transitional prime minister who is close to Defense Minister Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, suggested that the generals might have prompted Mr. Morsi to announce the possibility of martial law as a warning to all the political factions to end the crisis.

    “The military is saying, ‘Do not let things get so bad that we have to intervene,’ ” Mr. Abdel-Fattah said. “In the short term it is good for President Morsi, but in the long run they are also saying, ‘We belong to the people, and not Mr. Morsi or his opponents.’ ”

    The military’s return to the streets at Mr. Morsi’s request would be a turn of events that was almost unimaginable when he took office in June.

    The top generals had pushed for months to maintain a role in Egyptian politics and to limit the president’s powers — in part, their supporters argued, as a safeguard against an Islamist takeover.

    After taking office Mr. Morsi spent months courting the generals, sometimes earning the derision of liberal activists for his public flattery of their role. In an August decree, he relied on the backing of some top officers to remove the handful of generals who had insisted on maintaining a political role. And then last month, despite the protests of the same activists, the new Islamist-backed draft constitution turned out to include protections of the military’s autonomy and privileges within the Egyptian government, suggesting an understanding between the two sides that may now come into effect.

    On Saturday, Mohamed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual guide, held a news conference to argue that the group had been the victim of its opponents’ attacks and not an aggressor, at times almost pleading with its opponents not to let their fear of the Islamists keep them away from negotiating a resolution to the crisis.

    “I am telling everyone, ‘Do not hate the Muslim Brotherhood so much that you forget Egypt’s interest,’ ” he said. “You can be angry at us and hate us as much as you want.” But he added: “Protect Egypt. Its unity cannot take what is happening right now.”

    So we have what appear to be some sort of martial law warning coming from Morsi at the military’s request (recall that Morsi was the Muslim Brotherhood’s political “fixer” and liason with the Egyptian security forces before becoming president). And the military itself also issued a statement calling for dialogue and warning of a “dark tunnel” for Egypt should the military be forced to intervene. So there’s a very strong message being sent to Morsi’s opponents to end the street protest.

    And now, later in the day, we get a new decree. A decree to annul the previous decrees…well, some of them. The decree about the constitutional ratification vote next week is still in force:

    8 December 2012 Last updated at 17:54 ET
    Egypt crisis: President Morsi ‘annuls’ powers decree

    Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has annulled a decree he issued last month that hugely expanded his powers and sparked angry protests, officials say.

    However, a news conference in Cairo was told that a referendum on a draft constitution would still go ahead as planned on 15 December.

    Mr Morsi’s critics have accused him of acting like a dictator, but he says he is safeguarding the revolution.

    He said the extra powers were needed to force through reforms.

    Since taking office, Mr Morsi has been at loggerheads with the judiciary.

    “The constitutional decree is annulled from this moment,” said Selim al-Awa, an Islamist politician acting as a spokesman for a meeting Mr Morsi held earlier with political leaders.

    Postponement call

    The president’s supporters say the judiciary is made up of reactionary figures from the old regime of strongman Hosni Mubarak.

    But his opponents have mounted almost continuous protests since 22 November, when the decree was passed.

    They are also furious over the drafting of a new national constitution because they see the process as being dominated by Mr Morsi’s Islamist allies.

    An umbrella opposition group, the National Salvation Group, has demanded Mr Morsi rescind his decree and postpone a referendum on the new constitution due on 15 December.

    It’s looking like Egypt may have found itself in the unfortunate situation of having to not only ask the question “Can the unstoppable force move the unmovable object?” but also answer it. Is a decree to end all future decrees possible now that the decree-on/decree-off precedent has been set or is Egypt going to be stuck in a perpetual state of an undeclared decree threat? And if the military is really forming an Islamist alliance it’s we may end up with a situation of selective enforcement of that threat (e.g. when the youth protests in the future they get a crackdown but if the Muslim Brotherhood does it there’s no response). While the decree annulment does look like a positive step overall, this is also a potentially ominous turn of events. If the Muslim Brotherhood can establish early on that there is an implicit threat that civil disobedience will results in martial law and a decree-spree, that threat is going to go a long way towards accomplishing the Muslim Brotherhood’s long-term vision for an undemocratic Islamist state in Egypt.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 8, 2012, 5:12 pm

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