Since yesterday and until today ends, Egyptians have been flocking to the polls to choose their new president. No matter who the winner is: the Islamist Mohamed Mursi or the liberal
Since yesterday and until today ends, Egyptians have been flocking to the polls to choose their new president. No matter who the winner is: the Islamist Mohamed Mursi or the liberal Ahmed Shafik who is nevertheless branded for having belonged to the Mubarak establishment, a bunch of serious questions begs answers. What future is there for a civil State,and at the same time, if the ballot box brings the Islamists to power, what will their policy be? In the absence of constitution-defined presidential authorities, how will Egypt’s president proceed?
Watani took all these questions to Judge Hamed al-Gamal, former head of the State Council, the highest administrative court in Egypt.
What chance does the civil State stand in a new constitution?
With the current Islamist-majority Parliament, the declared Islamist intentions of taking over the writing of the new constitution, and the possibility of an Islamist president, we stand on the threshold of an Islamist threat to dominate State institutions. The threat is real, since they would be holding sway over the legislative and executive authorities. They have already attempted to amend the Constitutional Court law, and have made no secret of their intention to restructure the Police and the Army.
Why is the military doing nothing throughout all that?
We do not know much about the reason behind the military’s inaction or what its members’ inclinations are. The inaction may be tactical; the military may be awaiting the right timing, leading the Islamists on until they tie the rope around their own necks so to speak, to clash with them. Then again, the military may not be fully aware of the real danger posed by the Islamists.
The constituent assembly that should be writing the new constitution is now dominated by Islamists; and Egypt will get a president before a constitution. Howcome?
The culprit behind the crisis is Article 60 of the constitutional amendment introduced in March 2011 to the 1971 constitution which governed Egypt till then. The Constitutional Committee assigned in 2011 by the Military Council to draft the constitutional amendment included a majority Muslim Brotherhood members and was headed by the MB Judge Tareq al-Bishry.
Either unwittingly or intentionally, the committee introduced Article 60, which can only be amended by order of the Military Council.
Article 60 stipulates that the constituent assembly charged with drafting the constitution should be exclusively formed by Parliament. Parliament includes a sweeping majority of Islamists, and it was predictable that they should attempt to form an Islamist-majority constituent assembly. Such attempts have been met with adamant resistance from the national, liberal forces on the political arena; much precious time was lost, and the result is that Egypt is getting a president before a new constitution is written.
But does this mean that the new president is being elected with no defined authorities?
Yes, this is among the problems incurred by the Islamist majority parliament. The constitution should have been drafted before the presidential elections.
According to the March 2011 constitutional declaration, what are the president’s authorities?
The president is head of the executive authority. His authorities, his relation with the Parliament, and his accountability should be very clearly set. All this is missing from the March 2011 constitutional declaration which is now in action.
Any elected president will be without constitutionally-defined authorities, which is exactly what Islamists want, so that if their candidate wins the presidential elections then, backed by the Islamist-majority Parliament, he can amend the constitution in the way they wish. If the other candidate wins, however, he would be able to do no such thing since he will be opposed by Parliament. But I believe Egyptians are too vigilant to allow that to happen.
Does the president have a say in restructuring State institutions?
According to Article 56 of the March 2011 constitutional declaration, the president can appoint ministers, ambassadors and diplomats. State institutions such as the judiciary, army and police, however, are strong sovereign institutions that establish justice between citizens and defend the security of the nation. No authority but the constitutional law should govern these institutions.
Public calls to purge State institutions [of members of the pre-25 January 2011 establishment] should never be made except through laws to govern the process. The Islamist proposal that these institutions should conform to Islamic sharia is in itself unconstitutional. In order for Egypt to become a democratic State committed to constitutional legitimacy, the constitution alone should govern the coming period. The president should be committed to the principles of citizenship and absolute non-discrimination, and Egyptians should be able to express their opinion freely.
Why are members of the police and the military not allowed to vote?
This is a stipulation of the Egyptian law. It is not a basic condition, however; other countries allow their military and police to vote, on grounds that their members are citizens who should enjoy full citizenship rights, major among which is having a say in the polls.
Which do you believe is better for Egypt: the presidential system, the parliamentary system, or the mix of both?
I believe a mixed system is the most suitable during the upcoming period. We have already tried the presidential system, which proved unsuitable. And the parliamentary system is also unsuitable since we do not have strong political parties.
The mixed system offers a good balance between authorities, and no particular political party can monopolise the executive authority. Religious streams should not be allowed to claim hegemony over power or to impose a despotic religious regime.
You mentioned that the religious stream is after imposing its hegemony over the State. Does the media play a role in this?
Employing the media to reach their target is part of the plan. They surely need the media to applaud their project for an Islamist State. Notwithstanding that many in the media criticise the
Islamists’ actions and warn against them.
What do you think about the religious mottoes that Islamists have insisted on using during campaigning?
Unfortunately the Supreme Elections Committee (SEC) took no action in the face of exploiting religion in electoral campaigning. The SEC should have taken legal action against anyone who adopted religious mottoes. Some 13 million voters who live in underprivileged areas and suffer poverty, ignorance and unemployment are too vulnerable to such campaigning. These people need serious solutions to their misery, whereas slogans such as the famous “Islam is the answer” will get them no where. Communities develop through science and technology not through hollow rhetoric.
Where is Egypt heading to?
Egypt appears to be going towards a dark tunnel of vicious, bloody confrontations, until the current situation is amended. In order to put Egypt back on track, we should start by drafting a constitution based on the principles and objectives of the 25 January 2011 Revolution. The youth who led the revolution should organise themselves and form parties that reflect a democratic vision for the future of Egypt.
Do you mean to say that the revolution did not succeed?
It is a success of sorts. The revolution only succeeded in toppling the head of the regime, but no substantial change other than that was achieved. Nothing of the revolution’s demands materialised. Following any revolution, a revolutionary government is formed, which was not the case in Egypt, where the Military Council and the Islamists took over. More seriously, the revolutionary youth fragmented and lost their potential and strength, contrary to the organised religious stream which very swiftly moved in. Yes the revolution did not succeed; prices are still spiralling, the economy is still in tatters, security is missing, democracy woes abound, as well as all the other everyday changes which remind us that the revolution did not succeed.
17 June 2012