Egypt: Between the People and the State
By Hwaa Irfan
The crisis that is blighting the country right now, is a crisis born out of neglect by the executive, the intelligensia, and the elite. It is a crisis that manifests in so many ways at so many levels, both apparent and not so apparent around the world today. When that which considers itself the state: the executive, the intelligensia, and the elite ignore the reason for their existence, all short term solutions fall back on itself.
The currently elected parliament, was the first electoral body voted in by the people in November 2011. The constitutionality of this parliament was brought into question by appeals that were submitted. On 14 June 2012, a three hour hearing on the Political Isolation Law which prevented former regime officials from participating in elections as unconstitutional, the question here is which constitution was referred to with several amendments made by the nation’s executive body, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
Regardless, on the 14 June 2012, the the Political Isolation Law, was thrown out, and presidential hopeful, Ahmed Shafiq was allowed to remain in the presidential race. Also, on the 14 June 2012, the parliament, the People’s Assembly was deemed unconstitutional, but they were voted in by the people, or were they? The reason for this question is, if the People’s Assembly was voted in fair and square without vote rigging (noting at the time, many electoral campaign regulations were violated by the major block within the People’s Assembly, namely the Freedom and Justice Party), then from a simpleton’s point of view, those votes remain valid, and therefore rather than SCAF’s knee-jerk reaction to disbanding parliament, the constitution of the parliament should be re-evaluated. If the violations carried out at the time were in fact major, then the results of those elections imply that new parliamentary elections is the priority in order to constitute functional legal frameworks that are up and running. In the interim Constitution put to referendum on 19th March 2011 it stated in the preamble:
Sovereignty is for the people alone who will practise and protect this sovereignty and safeguard national unity in the manner specified by the Constitution
In the 18 months leading up to the current scenario, the sovereignty of the people has not been respected. The only way out of this resolve are new rounds of elections, and prior to those elections:
a comprehensive interim constitution put to referendum
the interim constitution as voted for by the people in March 2011, supported by the Document of the Pledge, put to referendum so that the elections can take place.
If the knee-jerk reaction remains in place, then this brings into question the other presidential hopeful Muhammed Mursi, as his entering the race was based on the support of parliament. In other words Mursi should be removed from the race. This in turn questions the credibility of the elections, which means that new presidential elections should be put into motion in any case.
In the last 18 months, nothing constructive has been acheived in terms of transition, in terms of social unity, economics, security, health, education… at all levels. This more than implies that those who have been running the country in that period, are ill-equipped, so the recent constitutional amendments should be made null and void, because it only prolongs such an arrangement to the detriment of the people and the nation as a whole. Those amendments as summarised by Ahram online are as follows:
– Article 30: In situation that parliament is dissolved the president will be vowed into office in front of High Constitutional Court’s General Assembly.
– Article 53: The incumbent SCAF members are responsible for deciding on all issues related to the armed forces including appointing its leaders and extending the terms in office of the aforesaid leaders. The current head of the SCAF is to act as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and minister of defense until a new constitution is drafted.
– Article 53/1: The president can only declare war after the approval of the SCAF.
– Article 53/2: If the country faces internal unrest which requires the intervention of the armed forces, the president can issue a decision to commission the armed forces – with the approval of the SCAF – to maintain security and defend public properties. Current Egyptian law stipulates the powers of the armed forces and its authorities in cases where the military can use force, arrest or detain.
– Article 56 B: The SCAF will assume the authorities set out in sub-article 1 of Article 56 as written in the 30 March 2011 Constitutional Declaration until a new parliament is elected.
– Article 60 B: If the constituent assembly encounters an obstacle that would prevent it from completing its work, the SCAF within a week will form a new constituent assembly- to author a new constitution within three months from the day of the new assembly’s formation. The newly drafted constitution will be put forward after 15 days of the day it is completed, for approval by the people through a national referendum. The parliamentary elections will take place one month from the day the new constitution is approved by the national referendum.
– Article 60 B1: If the president, the head of SCAF, the prime minister, the Supreme Council of the Judiciary or a fifth of the constituent assembly find that the new constitution contains an article or more which conflict with the revolution’s goals and its main principles or which conflict with any principle agreed upon in all of Egypt’s former constitutions, any of the aforementioned bodies may demand that the constituent assembly revises this specific article within 15 days. Should the constituent assembly object to revising the contentious article, the article will be referred to the High Constitutional Court (HCC) which will then be obliged to give its verdict within seven days. The HCC’s decision is final and will be published in the official gazette within three days from the date of issuance.
– Article 38 of the 30 March, 2011 Constitutional Declaration will be replaced with: “The parliamentary elections will be conducted in accordance to the law.”
Surely the Document of the Pledge is more than sufficient until such time a representative Constituent Assembly accepted by the people drafts a comprehensive constitution that will in turn go to referendum.
The current debacle is a result of breaking faith with the sovereignty of the people. To encourage maturity over the issues, one has to act with maturity. The Mohammed Mursi’s call to announce the votes as they come in was in an attempt to circumvent any vote rigging, and it should have been left at that, instead of adding to the scenario the idea of victory – what victory is it anyway when one will only end up acting as a prime minister to a ruling body that keeps changing the laws, unconstitutionally! As for the secularists, they have fared no better, and have acted in their own interests against the sovereignty of the people. Cairo does not represent the whole of Egypt, and is in fact out of touch with the rest of Egypt, and it has been so for a very long time. There will come a point that with truely fair and transparent elections, all candidates on the same budget, and all candidates supported by the country’s executive in terms of public hearing, that the will of the people must be recognized, after all, is it not the whole point!
Revolution Recall II
Egypt Votes: Every Silver Lining has a Cloud!
From the Jasmine to the Lotus: Getting the Constitution Right
30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself
The Train That Left the Station
The Document of the Pledge