Article VI: Egypt`s new dictatorship
Thursday, November 29, 2012
A man rides his bicycle past a banner that reads, “The Muslim Brotherhood stole the country”, in Tahrir Square in Cairo, November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih
“Article VI: The President may take the necessary actions and measures to protect the country and the goals of the revolution.” Read that aloud slowly, and let the words roll around your tongue as they ooze out like dark, thick molasses.
It`s the centerpiece of Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi`s recent “Constitutional Declaration,” accruing to himself powers and authoritya(euro)”at least on papera(euro)”undreamt of by his autocratic predecessors Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak.
Anyone surprised by this naked and extremely aggressive power grab by the Muslim Brotherhood was either woefully naive or grossly misinformed about its deep-seated authoritarian orientation and agenda. It is inevitable that it will attempt, if it can, to impose a dictatorship in Egypt more oppressive and thorough-going than anything in the past, as the declaration demonstrates.
Brokering the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza gave Morsi the domestic and international space to act decisively. He has proven, if nothing else, a ruthless political butcher, wasting no opportunity to bring the knife down whenever he can.
The Brotherhood is trying to mollify Egyptians with two extremely unconvincing sleights of hand.
First, attention is being directed to other, far more specific, articles. Some measures will be popular, such as replacing the widely reviled prosecutor-general and reopening or retrying cases involving abuses by members of the former regime despite the double jeopardy involved.
More alarm was caused by Article II, which makes all of Morsi`s decisions since he took office “final and binding.” It forbids any form of judicial review or legal challenge, including retroactively annulling any rulings already issued against them.
It is Article VI, however, that really establishes a new and unprecedentedly arbitrary dictatorship in Egypt, giving Morsi virtually unfettered powers. It`s hard to imagine any executive action or decree whatsoever that couldn`t be justified as “protecting the country and the goals of the revolution.” At least in his own opinion, and that`s the only one that counts, because, remember, his decisions are not subject to any checks, balances, lawsuits or other form of challenge whatsoever.
His word, quite literally, is law. In Egypt now, at least according to his declaration, there is no recourse at all.
The second sleight-of-hand the Brotherhood is using to try to mollify Egyptians is the idea that this is all simply “temporary,” to be rescinded once there is a new Constitution in place and a new parliament elected. CK MacLeod reminded me of Carl Schmitt`s observation that emergency decrees or temporary suspensions of the law are often the norm in political modernity, not the exception. Hitler, for example, never rescinded the Weimar Republic Constitution. He merely suspended it every four years following the Reichstag fire, until the Soviet army overran Berlin.
It`s an apt point. Almost every autocratic Arab state has used “temporary” or “emergency” laws to justify dictatorial rule and human rights abuses. Israel, too, relies on “emergency” laws promulgated by the British mandatory authorities in 1945, particularly in the occupied Palestinian territories. So why should Muslim Brotherhood-ruled Egypt be any different? The tediously predictable answer is, left on its own, it won`t be. It will be, if anything, more oppressive than the (also “temporary”) nationalist one-party dictatorship that preceded it.
Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood will not relinquish these unprecedented dictatorial powers unless they are forced to. Even then, they will cling onto as much as possible. It`s going to be up to the Egyptian opposition to unite and force their hands. It will be very difficult -- but the way things are going not impossible and possibly even not neccessary -- for Morsi`s government to block new parliamentary and presidential elections supposed to take place in the foreseeable future.
If the Egyptian people are to avoid new and even worse dictatorship than they just overthrew, they must avoid political domination by the Muslim Brotherhood. But in order to achieve that, the opposition is going to have to unite and provide an alternative which they can support, not a morass of bickering.
The government and the Brotherhood have reacted to the protests against the declaration with a combination of violence and nonchalance. They clearly think this is a temporary storm they can weather, with the already secured support of their Salafist “frienemies.” In terms of the fundamental state stability, they`re probably right. Street protests probably won`t be enough at this stage to undo the damage.
Protests and criticism at all levels, and as much litigation as possible, should be focused on discrediting or even undoing Morsi`s declaration of dictatorship. But real hopes for Egyptian democracy in the long run depend on removing from power, presumably by the ballot box, the person and party brazen, power-mad and tyrannical enough to promulgate Article VI.
Assuming, of course, that there ever is another election in Egypt.
(Description of Source: Beirut NOW Lebanon in English -- A privately-funded pro-14 March coalition, anti-Syria news website; URL: www.nowlebanon.com)
© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.
Egypt`s Muslim Brotherhood Spokesman Rejects Backtracking on Mursi`s Decisions
Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Report by Muhammad Abduh Husayn from Cairo: “Muslim Brotherhood Spokesman Ghuzlan to Al-Sharq al-Awsat: We are Coming Under Intense Pressure From Our Young Members To Retaliate Against Repeated Attacks; The Constitutional Declaration Expesses The Will of The People; It Is Not The Business Of America Or Any Other Country To Interfere In Our Affairs”
Dr Mahmud Ghuzlan, official spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt and member of the MB`s Guidance Bureau, refused making any concessions or backing down on the part of President Muhammad Mursi on the constitutional declaration that he recently issued just to satisfy his opponents. He described opponents to President Mursi as “a minority that has well-known goals.” In an exclusive statement to Al-Sharq al-Awsat, he said: “President Mursi`s decisions express the true will of the people, and the people who supported him in making these decisions will not accept his backtracking on them. He rejected the Western nations` criticism leveled at Egypt in this respect.”
The MB and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, will today stage a demonstration in support of President Mursi for making his latest decisions, which gave him new powers at the expense of the judicial authority. This demonstration will be staged against another demonstration on the same day by the opposition`s civil and revolutionary forces at the Al-Tahrir Square in the center of Cairo. The MB decided to move the venue of its demonstration from the Abidin Square, which is close to the Al-Tahirir Square, to the Nahdat Misr Square in front of the University of Cairo in Al-Jizah to avoid any confrontations between the two parties.
Dr Ghuzlan said that the police and security forces will be responsible for protecting the demonstrations of both parties against any expected attacks or acts of violence. He stressed that “the MB demonstrators will secure the venue of the demonstration supportive of President Mursi in front of the University of Cairo by following traditional measures, such as searching demonstrators before entering he square to ensure they carry no arms and guarantee the peaceful nature of the demonstration.
Ghuzlan stressed that “he has no fears about President Mursi`s supporters engaging in any acts of violence.” He added: “We will not use our hands or tongues to harm others; this is impossible. Everyone noticed that in the past few days all attacks were directed against us. The headquarters of the MB and of the Freedom and Justice Party were torched in a number of governorates.”
Ghuzlan said that the leaders of the MB and of the Freedom and Justice Party are coming under intense pressure by some MB`s zealous young members to retaliate against attacks. He said: “These MB members are asking why we are not defending ourselves? How long shall we remain standing with folded arms as opponents repeat their attacks?” He added: “Our answer to them was to exercise patience; the good outcome will be the reward of the patient.”
Asked about the pressure applied by certain opposition groups on President Muhammad Mursi to back down on the constitutional declaration he issued a few days ago, or at least to make certain concessions, Ghuzlan stressed that “absolutely no concessions will be made. All that is needed is to explain and clarify some points, that is all. There can be no concessions or retreat from decisions made according to the people`s will. On the contrary, people had been nervous and had attacked the presidency for being slow in making those decisions. Opinion polls prove that.”
Ghuzlan called on President Mursi to bow to popular will, stressing that everyone should respect this will. He added: “We will not accept any backtracking. The people will support Mursi only on condition that he does not back down.” He described those who reject the constitutional declaration as “a minority that has well-known goals, particularly because the constitutional declaration is restricted to a specific period of time.” He also rejected Western nations` statements criticizing the constitutional declaration, saying: “It is not the business of the United States or any other country to interfere in Egypt`s decision-making process or impose on us what we should or should not do.”
Ghuzlan, who is also a member of the Constituent Assembly of the Constitution, revealed that “the Constituent Assembly has less than a week to submit the draft Constitution to the president.” He added that “after 15 days, referendum can be held on the draft Constitution and then all constitutional declarations will be dropped, particularly because the president is convinced that the Egyptian people will not reject the new Constitution that received testimonials that it will be the best constitution in Egypt`s history.”
Ghuzlan denied that the MB interferes through its Guidance Bureau or the Freedom and Justice Party, the MB`s political arm, in presidential affairs or dictate such decisions on the president of the republic. He added that the presidential aides and advisers stated that they had nothing to do with those decisions. He stressed that “a host of jurists in the presidential institution, who are not known to us or to the people, formulated the constitutional declaration.” He added: “We do not know how to write such declarations.”
Discussing the position of certain opposition forces that rejected the calls for dialogue that President Mursi and the MB`s Freedom and Justice Party have made to discuss the crisis before canceling the constitutional declaration, Ghuzlan stressed that “some people want to place the enmesh the country in a state of constitutional vacuum to prevent holding the forthcoming parliamentary elections for fear of democracy.” He pointed out that “they rejected these calls because they want the crisis to get worse, whereas we want a solution.” He said that reports being published on lists of arrests or assassination of opposition political figures are “ridiculous rumors.” He said that “these rumors were spread to warn of the success of President Mursi in his post, but we have not seen any such arrests or assassinations after the president`s success” (in winning the presidential elections).
(Description of Source: London Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online in Arabic -- Website of influential London-based pan-Arab Saudi daily; editorial line reflects Saudi official stance. URL: http://www.asharqalawsat.com/)
© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.