A more traditional description for such an exceptional situation would not be of any use to any of the parties involved. Therefore, I shall not waste any energy dwelling on the question of who supported or who objected to the Egyptian President’s latest moves, since anyone with the smallest insight would be able to understand that this is a conflict between a legitimacy that was won through the ballot box and pretenders to legitimacy who aim to discredit the former.
This was not a declaration in defence of the constitution by any stretch of the imagination; this was a blow cast in a pre-emptive strike designed to undermine the legitimacy of the President. Signs of this bid to restore SCAF to its full glory and powers, the dissolution of the Shura Council (the last of our elected councils) and the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly were all looming on the horizon for all to see.
They say that the problem is the overweening predominance of the legislative authority; so where were they when the People’s Assembly was dissolved in an incident that is considered “unprecedented” in human history? The Constitutional Court has punished a whole people because of a procedural error committed by SCAF. In a trice they were willing to bypass a whole unique democratic experiment that has been undergone by the whole people for the first time ever and after sixty years of oppression and tyranny.
Why don’t I hear about the predominance of the legislature when the Supreme Administrative Court (judicial authority) intervened in the very purview of the Parliament by dissolving the first constituent assembly?
Why don’t I hear more about this when it comes to the totally unfair constitutional declaration that was issued by SCAF, who were not even elected by the people, just in order to restrain the authorities of the elected president and tie his hands?
Well, if this is to be the argument, let me tell you about one elected president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, who through his constitutional declaration has immunized an elected council and an elected constituent body against the repression of the attorney general and some particular members of the judiciary; some of whom were appointed by Suzan Mubarak and others who are known to have been behind every unjust and corrupt decision over the past thirty years. These figures are the gatekeepers of the old regime which has employed repressive tactics to inhibit justice and equality in our society. Why would anyone who supported the revolution be sad to see them go?
President Morsi’s declaration has provided a timeline for exiting from this current state of political liquidity and uncertainty in which Egypt has been floundering lately. We have to admit that one of the most important sources of this problem is that many secular leaders insist on dragging the country into an endless merry-go-round by attempting to block the constitution from reaching daylight, and hence they block the parliamentary elections along the way.
They fear the coming parliamentary elections just like they fear death, since these elections would mean that the ultimate legitimacy would reside in the hands of the people, many of whom the secular leaders have failed to engage as is evident from the results of the previous parliamentary elections.
It would also signal the start of real stability and harmony, when all three authorities : legislative, judicial and executive can interact and make themselves attuned with each other for at least the coming four years. Let me just elaborate further: some are afraid, actually mortified, by the possibility that Egypt will be able to repeat the successes of the model set by the Turkish Justice & Development Party.
Some of these attempts are skilfully exposed in a recent article written by Wael Kandil. Frankly speaking I am driven up the wall by these cheap extortion attempts to which we are subjected day and night.
Just so that there isn’t any confusion, I am particularly talking about 19 members who mobilized themselves to overthrow the constituent assembly through twisting arms, wailing and acting like victims. Let me ask this; why on earth did you participate for a whole five months in an allegedly “unbalanced” assembly? Why did you accept it from day one when it came into existence while you were fully aware that some judicial rulings were out to get you? What kind of ‘cooked’ constitution are the seculars and liberals talking about when they have participated in formulating (each and every) article of it until the moment when those secular and liberal leaders withdrew from the constituent assembly; a withdrawal which took place after there was nothing left but the final revision to be done by adding a word here or leaving a word there?
I cannot help but wonder why those secular and liberal leaders cannot gather some courage to tell the Egyptian people that they have backtracked on their word. A hand-written agreement was documented stating that certain articles of the proposed constitution draft were controversial and would therefore require further discussion and debate (Articles 2,3,4 and 220). This document was signed by the representatives of Al-Azhar, the Church, the Salafis, the Muslim Brotherhood and yes, it was also signed by representatives of the Liberal and Secular parties as well. Hence the question remains, why did they go back on their word?
As for those who have retired outside the walls of the Shura Council and seek to overthrow the assembly I would like to tell them that if they were really keen on the welfare of this country and on its people then let us sit together and hold a civilized dialogue to discuss your specific criticism of the specific articles. Let us hear your suggestions and amendments! But to keep spinning in a non-stop vicious circle of unsubstantiated accusations such as, “the Islamists are flexing their muscles and dominating the constitution writing process,” or that they are unwilling to discuss, debate and compromise - when the truth is that we have been doing little else since the inception of the constitutional assembly, then responding to some of these accusations begins to become useless.
I never thought the day would come when I would have to explain the meaning of “majority vote” in the assembly. But I have to, because our friends are fooling the Egyptian people by telling them that what is going on in the assembly is unparalleled in the whole world! Whereas the fact is that all the constitutions around us are either written by constituent assemblies that directly “acknowledge” a constitution provided that it is approved by either two-thirds of its members or by the simple majority (50+1), after which it is put forward for public referendum. But to combine both methods is something really strange and what is even stranger is that our liberal friends are stubbornly insisting it in a way that has become so difficult to fathom.
The word “compatibility” has a nice ring to it, especially when we’ve been using it so liberally after the revolution to express our desire to reach solutions that will satisfy all parties. But as nice as it sounds, it won’t eliminate the idea of “differences”. When they tell us that two-thirds acceptance is a condition, then it goes without saying that one-third of the members will always have an opposing opinion that is justifiable and convincing from their point of view; otherwise why did humanity even invent voting in the first place?
We will all welcome a national opposition that respects its people and guards their gains and destines, but how can we welcome an opposition that entices some youth to throw stones at the People and Shura Councils, to throw Molotov cocktails and burn down the headquarters of another party to the ground? If only one-tenth of this had happened to the headquarters of the pettiest opposition party because of some demonstrations that the Islamists called for, the whole world would have risen up in anger for it and we would never ever have heard the last of this in terms of recriminations and repercussions.