They wanted democracy, but is Egypt turning into the next Iran?
The Daily Telegraph
November 30, 2012
An anti-Mursi protester chants anti-government slogans at Tahrir Square in Cairo November 30, 2012. An Islamist-led assembly raced through approval of a new constitution for Egypt on Friday to end a crisis over President Mohamed Mursi`s newly expanded powers, but opponents responded with another rally in Cairo against the Islamist leader. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Like Khomeini in Tehran, Mohammed Morsi says his powers are divinely blessed
It all began with crowds of anti–government demonstrators occupying the main city square to demand the overthrow of the regime`s long–serving dictator. For weeks the country was paralysed, as student groups intensified their campaign for democracy and the rule of law, and an end to the institutional brutality that was routinely meted out to anyone who defied the government`s diktat.
But when the tyrant was finally removed from power, the campaigners saw their prodemocracy aspirations brutally crushed. Instead of living under military rule, they found themselves being governed by an Islamic dictatorship, where any form of opposition to the government was deemed an offence against God punishable by death.
The Iranian experience during the 1979 revolution is an object lesson in how a popular uprising can deliver outcomes that are far removed from what was originally intended. When millions of Iranians took to the streets to campaign for the overthrow of the Shah, they fully expected his dictatorial regime to be replaced with a more representative form of government that served the interests of the nation as a whole, rather than a privileged few. Instead, they ended up with one of the most fanatical Islamic regimes of modern times.
Now the eruption of fresh demonstrations in Cairo`s Tahrir Square has raised fears that Egypt`s pro–democracy revolution is about to suffer a similar fate. It is nearly two years since Tahrir Square became a beacon of the country`s pro–democracy movement, as millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demand the removal of the long–standing military dictator, President Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak and his clique of corrupt henchmen may be long gone, but the prospects of the country settling down to a new era of democratic government remain as distant today as they were during the heady days of the original uprising. The first faltering steps to democratic rule have been undermined by the strong showing of the Muslim Brotherhood in both the recent parliamentary and presidential elections, which resulted in the appointment of Mohammed Morsi, one of the movement`s leaders, as the new president.
Islam and democracy are not natural bedfellows, and Mr Morsi`s insistence, particularly in his meetings with Western politicians, that he has no desire to become Egypt`s “new pharoah” and is fully committed to upholding the country`s new democratic principles, does not square with his recent pronouncements. These assurances have been undermined by Mr Morsi`s blatant power grab, in which he announced that, in future, all presidential decrees will be immune from legal challenge.
The timing of this declaration is troubling, as the country is engaged in drawing up a new constitution which, in normal circumstances, would require the approval of the establishment. By placing himself above the judiciary, Mr Morsi has awarded himself the power to sanction the new constitution irrespective of any objections secularists may raise.
A similar pattern of behaviour was evident in Iran following the overthrow of the Shah, when Ayatollah Khomeini, the founding father of Islamic Republic, succeeded in imposing a new constitution on the Iranian people which was based more on the will of God than the rule of law. At a stroke, the pro–democracy aspirations of ordinary Iranians were crushed by the creation of an Islamic theocracy. As Khomeini himself warned secularists when the new constitution was drawn up: “Revolt against God`s government is a revolt against God, and a revolt against God is blasphemy.”
Whether Mr Morsi intends to go to the same lengths as Khomeini in imposing sharia on Egyptians is unclear, although many people now fear this will be the outcome, particularly as the Muslim Brotherhood controls two-thirds of the 100–member constitutional assembly responsible for drawing up the new constitution. To prevent history repeating itself, thousands of protesters returned to their old Tahrir Square haunt this week in the hope of persuading Mr Morsi to back down from his shameless seizing of powers. But while Mr Morsi has hinted that he might be prepared to compromise in his stand–off with the courts, his supporters are not taking any chances. To pre–empt any attempt by the judiciary to reassert its authority, the Constitutional Assembly yesterday began voting on a new draft of the constitution in an attempt to beat Sunday`s deadline, by which time the Supreme Constitutional Court has threatened to disband the assembly if it has failed to reach agreement.
If the wrangling over Egypt`s new constitution has echoes of Khomeini`s lunge for power in Tehran in the late Seventies, the rhetoric used by Mr Morsi to explain his actions is even more chilling. Seeking to justify the presidential edict that gave him unchecked authority, he declared: “God`s will and elections made me the captain of this ship.” Ayatollah Khomeini often made similar claims. Like the Iranians in 1979, I doubt most Egyptians thought God would intervene in their political struggles when they first occupied Tahrir Square. But now that Mr Morsi can claim divine guidance in his attempts to forge a new constitution, secularists will face an uphill struggle if they are to prevent Egypt turning from a military dictatorship into a theocracy.
© The Daily Telegraph 2012. Telegraph Media Group Ltd.
Iran analyst sees Western `role` in Egyptian `chaos`
BBC Monitoring Middle East
November 30, 2012
A man walks past photos showing people killed during protests, at Mohamed Mahmoud street in Cairo November 29, 2012. An Islamist-led assembly was expected to finalise a new constitution on Friday aimed at transforming Egypt and paving the way for an end to a crisis which erupted when President Mohamed Mursi gave himself sweeping new powers last week. The street is the location where at least 42 protesters died during clashes in 2011 during Egypt`s interim military rule. The graffiti at rear shows an image of ousted president Hosni Mubarak merged with that of Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the former head of the army council that ruled Egypt, (2nd L), and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie (L). REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Text commentary by Hasan Hanizadeh, Middle East issues “expert”: “Which direction is Egypt going in?” by Iranian newspaper Tehran-e Emruz on 29 November.
The recent events in Egypt and the gathering of the two sides in support and opposed to the elected Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi in Tahrir Square in Cairo has placed the political and social landscape of this 85-million population country in a halo of ambiguity. This gathering is taking place at a time when Muhammad Mursi, relying on some of the elements of the previous Egyptian constitution, has sidelined the prosecutor-general of this country and designated Tal`at Ibrahim Abdallah, one of the judges that is close to the Muslim Brotherhood, as the new prosecutor-general. The previous Egyptian prosecutor was appointed by Husni Mubarak and therefore he exonerated elements of the previous Egyptian dictatorship and those close to Husni Mubarak. The exoneration of these elements was met with the dissatisfaction of a vast portion of the Islamists, so the Muslim Brotherhood asked Mursi to sideline that prosecutor and appoint a new prosecutor.
According to the old Egyptian constitution, appointing the prosecutor-general was within the sphere of authority given to the president while the new constitution has given the designation of the prosecutor to the High Judicial Council. Although the constitution has not yet been put to a referendum vote, in order to expand his authority, Muhammad Mursi is placed in a somewhat difficult paradox. In selecting the prosecutor-general, the Egyptian president has turned to the old constitution, while in the new constitution, this authority has been taken away from the president. This affair has given the secularists, liberals, and elements of the previous Egyptian regime the pretext to create a powerful front against the Egyptian president.
This faction was formed with the participation of 28 secular and liberal parties being lead by Mohamed ElBaradei, the former director-general of the IAEA; Amr Musa, former head of the Arab League; and Hamdin Sabahi, former candidate for the Egyptian presidency.
In its protest efforts against Mursi`s recent decision, the camp opposed to Muhammad Mursi called its forces to take refuge in Tahrir Square.
In return, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party - the political branch of the Muslim Brotherhood -- asked their own forces to gather at Tahrir Square to support Mursi.
The presence of supporters from the two factions in Cairo`s Tahrir Square has resulted in bloody violence between supporters and opponents of the Egyptian president, during which two individuals were killed and hundreds of others were injured.
It is said that elements supporting the previous regime have spent a great deal of money to create chaos in the political and social situation in Egypt so that the government of Muhammad Mursi is overthrown and the situation in the country returns to the period before 25 January 2011 - the date of Husni Mubarak`s overthrow. America and the West have also not been irrelevant on the increase in the recent lack of calm in Egypt because from the vantage point of America, the continuation of the Muslim Brotherhood`s rule in Egypt will help the empowerment of the jihadist movements in Palestine.”
Source: Tehran-e Emruz website, Tehran, in Persian 29 Nov 12
© 2012 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Iran daily criticizes Egyptian presidential decree
BBC Monitoring Middle East
November 30, 2012
Text of commentary by Abdollah Al-e Bughobeysh: “Mursi: Setting fire to kindling” by Iranian newspaper Hamshahri on 26 November.
Muhammad Mursi, in issuing a new decree for Egypt`s temporary constitution, effectively returned this country to the days of protest and strife, such that once again the sound of bullet fire would turn toward protestors in the country and the cries of the Pharaoh-like position of Mursi would push him and international sides to react. Before analyzing this decree, its substance must be addressed.
On Thursday night, the Egyptian president issued a seven-point decree, based on which he dismissed a prosecutor general and appointed a new prosecutor. Second, these decisions of the president could not be objected to and no person has the right to protest or object to them and every type of objection brought against them from the beginning of Mursi`s presidency is considered annulled. Third, no group or institution has the right to dissolve the Constituent Assembly of Egypt and the Consultative Council.
Fourth, that the prosecutor general will be determined by the president and not by the judiciary and his term is four years, counter to the current law. Fifth, that the period of time determined for ratifying the constitution is not six months, but rather will be eight months; and sixth, that in the case of Egypt and its revolution falling into danger, the president will adopt the necessary steps to confront it, in accordance with the laws.
The seventh point is related to the publishing of this decree in the press. However, why has this decree raised the voice of dissent inside and outside Egypt and resulted in things being said about the Pharaoh-like position of Muhammad Mursi to the point that he is given the name Mursi Mubarak? Mursi`s defenders say that Egypt has been a mess in the last two years and needs an iron fist to instill order and strengthen the law. Limiting the chaos requires a finishing blow, which was in the mentioned decree. However, these defenders must answer this question as to whether issuing this new decree has messed up this Egyptian chaos even more and strengthened the notion that in Egypt Islamism and democracy are two opposing concepts? Was Mursi unable to deliver this finishing blow through legal channels such that Egypt`s unbridled groups would not go down the path of unruliness? Was Mursi unable to wait until the Egyptian constitution was ratified to organize political actions and reactions in the framework of the constitution? And finally, on which authorities and powers was the constitutional decree that Mursi issued based? Essentially, why were these orders arranged and codified in the framework of a constitutional decree and not the law? Is it because Mursi does not believe in the independence of the judicial branch?
A look at the contents of this decree can also raise other questions. In the first clause of the constitution, which gives Mursi the right to dismiss the prosecutor general, the interference of the executive branch in responsibilities of the judiciary is obviously apparent. Mursi, because he did not have this right and possibility, made an effort through the issuing of this decree to give the aforementioned authorities to himself so that the Supreme Court of the country cannot annul it, as the Supreme Court has the right to cancel or confirm issued laws. At a time when the commands of the president are outside of the legal framework, the Supreme Court`s hands are tied.
Annulling the possibility of objecting to the president`s orders and laws is once again interference in judicial work. In democratic systems, there is always a regulatory organization that monitors the performance of the president and the compliance of his orders with the constitution and has the right of annulling or objecting to the president`s laws and orders. Removing this system of monitoring functionally makes the president the only game in town in the field of politics, the impacts of which are obvious to all.
However, eliminating the right to dissolve the Constituent Assembly of Egypt and the Consultative Council is also reviewable, specifically if we know that the majority of the seats of these two councils are held by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and also parties of the president, which can evoke suspicions among Mursi`s critics. Mursi, in the fourth point, returns to the prosecutor, divests the right to appoint [the position] from the judiciary and adds it to his own authorities; authorities that are now immune to any type of suspicion or objection, which is in an infringement on the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers principle.
Maybe the most dangerous article of this decree is the sixth article. In that article, completely ambiguous phrases with very highly variable analytical and interpretative features are seen because it is not clear which person will decide when the revolution and Egypt are endangered and when they are not in danger. Although this article says that the behavior of the president will be based on the law, it does not state which law. It opens the possibility for creating an emergency situation in the country and this, in its own way, is the re-creation of the 40-year old discourse of the previous political system and a return to the Mubarak era.
Source: Hamshahri, Tehran, in Persian 26 Nov 12
© 2012 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.