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:
Blow to Transition as Court Dissolves Egypt’s Parliament
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
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:
Revolt Leaders Cite Failure to Uproot Old Order in Egypt
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
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
BY MOHANNAD SABRY AND NANCY A. YOUSSEF
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.