Egypt’s Elections: If You Can’t Convince Them, Confuse Them

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An Egyptian man walks in front of a wall sprayed with graffiti, depicting the ruling military council controlling the presidential elections as a puppet show, near Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo 16 May 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

By: Mohammad Khawly

Published Thursday, May 17, 2012

As the major players in Egyptian politics, SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood, exchange blows, the Egyptian people remain in a state of confusion without a proper constitution or a clear sense of what is coming next.

Cairo - The weeks of turmoil that Egypt has endured did not come from nowhere. Everyone has been vying for control over the revolution. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has tried to rein it in, and the Muslim Brotherhood has used the political upheaval to pursue its own interests. Meanwhile, the remnants of Mubarak’s regime are trying to regain their lost power, and the widespread popular support of the revolution is transforming into hostility.

In short, Egypt has been turned upside down by the revolution. The presidential elections were halted by a court ruling, only for the lawyers to confirm that the ruling did not mean that the elections would be cancelled and that they would be held as scheduled.

Ahmed Shafik, the last Prime Minister under Mubarak and SCAF favorite, was excluded from the race, then he was allowed back into the race, and now nobody knows if he is still in the race or not. He was disqualified the first time due to the political isolation law passed by the parliament, intended to prevent head of intelligence Omar Suleiman from running for president.

This exclusion, which applied to Shafik as well, was lifted after he pleaded his case before the presidential elections committee. The committee asked that the law be examined by the high constitutional court to determine its constitutionality, but the latest ruling denying the presidential elections committee the right to question the constitutionality of the law has put Shafik at risk of being excluded once again.

The fight between the cabinet and the parliament has been another sign of confusion. The Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarians who led calls for the removal of Kamal Ganzouri and his cabinet have come back empty handed. In the end, the dispute was resolved through a limited reshuffling of the cabinet by SCAF and the substitution of four ministers, allowing the cabinet to continue operating.

Even the drafting of the new constitution has seen its fair share of controversy. The Islamic political movements that dominate the parliament have sought to control the constitutional committee. After three meetings of the committee, it was nullified by a court ruling that emphasised the need of the committee being formed from outside the parliament. This was in order to ensure the representation of the entire Egyptian political spectrum and not allow one political movement (i.e. the Islamists) to monopolize the process.

The question remains: how has Egypt come to this point? Secretary General of the Socialist People’s Alliance Party Abdul Ghaffar Shukr tried to summarize the reasons in a conversation with Al-Akhbar. He allotted SCAF the largest share of blame, since its handling of the transitional period is the main reason for the prevailing turmoil and the wave of dissatisfaction that has hit the youth of this revolution. He also cites the actions of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has followed its own priorities while acting as if its interests represent Egypt’s best interests, even though many of its concerns do not align with those of the Egyptian public and the rest of its factions who demand social justice and creating stability through the implementation of a constitution. Shukr thinks that SCAF’s transitional rule must be terminated as soon as possible by holding presidential elections as scheduled, even if there is not a constitution in place. He says that it is possible for the future president to make use of the provisional constitution until Egypt’s new constitution is complete.

Meanwhile, researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Emad Gad, says that “the current political turmoil is evidence of a state of confusion, and this confusion results from the absence of a constitution to guide us.” He adds, “If we had begun by forming the committee to draft the constitution, none of this turmoil that we face today would have come about.” Gad says that Egypt’s present state is the logical conclusion after following a mistaken path from the beginning of the transitional period.

The Islamist movement considered the constitutional declaration made by Chancellor Tarek Bishri “a victory for Islam,” just as SCAF considered it “support for itself.” Now, those who had once supported the provisional constitution are criticizing it, saying that it is a “referendum on stability.” Over the course of the past week, the members of parliament, particularly the followers of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi al-Nour Party, have attacked the provisional constitution, article 28 of which gives immunity to the presidential election committee and forbids the contradiction any of its decisions. It has come to the point where a group of Islamists who support disqualified candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail has announced a public apology to the protesters on the main platform in Tahrir Square after they supported the provisional constitution in a referendum on March 19.

The head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party Mohamed Abul-Ghar says that the Islamist propaganda surrounding the March 19 referendum is what has divided the Egyptian public. He says that the Islamists were advocating the yes vote, saying that it would lead Egyptians to stability, hasten the end of military rule, and get things moving again. The fact that this has not been achieved thus far has led to this sad state of affairs. However, representative Saad Aboud thinks that all that has passed, and although the source of this turmoil is the holding of elections before solidifying the constitution, “what is important now is how we will emerge from this crisis, correct the situation, and end this state of ambiguity.” Aboud thinks that adhering to the rulings of the court will lead to eventual solutions to these political crises.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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