Egypt: What if the President Is Toppled?
Published Wednesday, June 26, 2013
What if the “revolution” planned for June 30 succeeds? Does the opposition have an alternative to the current ruling system? The opposition-aligned political factions have devised several proposals to avoid a repeat of the pitfalls of the January 25 Revolution.
Cairo – Who will be chosen as a replacement? The ruling Muslim Brotherhood is posing this question to Egyptians calling for the overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi on June 30.
Deposed President Hosni Mubarak asked the same question. Before stepping down, he famously said, “Either me or chaos.” Oddly, the Brotherhood finds itself uttering these same words as it deploys its supporters throughout every street, village, and province in Egypt.
Yet it seems that opposition political forces have learned their lesson from February 11, when Mubarak stepped down and ordered the armed forces to run the country, after which Egypt went through a transitional period that many politicians described as the worst in the country’s history.
On Saturday, June 22, the opposition forces launched an initiative dubbed “After the [President’s] Departure.” During a two-day conference, experts in all fields deliberated economic affairs, national security, the Sinai, and even the future of the Nile, following the Ethiopian bid to go ahead with the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam. Their goal: to manage the post-Mursi transition.
The opening session was attended by Dustur Party head Mohamed el-Baradei, Popular Movement founder Hamdeen Sabahi, and a plethora of other opposition leaders. In a speech, Baradei called on Mursi to resign “for the sake of Egypt and a new era.”
Baradei said that the Muslim Brotherhood regime has divided Egypt and taken the country back to the Middle Ages, while Sabahi declared that the Egyptian people would not return to their homes on June 30 until Mursi steps down.
Sabahi stressed that everyone taking part in the June 30 protests will report to the leadership of the “Tamarrud,” or Rebellion, campaign, which must be credited with calling for the ouster of Mursi and his regime.
The conference organizers sought to deliver a clear message to the Egyptian people: “There is a real alternative to the current Brotherhood regime.” More importantly, according to Egyptian opposition party leaders who spoke to Al-Akhbar, the political forces must have a plan for the potential transitional phase.
Hossam Mounis, spokesperson for the Popular Movement, said that an agreement must first be reached among the political and popular forces over a unified vision for the transitional phase. For his part, Mahmoud Alayli, leader in the Free Egyptians Party and the opposition National Salvation Front, said that agreement on the vision is crucial.
Ahmad Eid, a Dustur Party official, said that the majority of opposition forces agreed that the chairperson of the Constitutional Court would take over presidential powers during any transitional period, provided that the post would be “honorary.” Full powers would be given to a government consisting of technocrats led by a figure that has popular approval and the respect of all political forces.
This government’s task would be to supervise security and the economy during the transition, while a committee would be formed to draft a new constitution and prepare laws for presidential and legislative elections.
This scenario proposed by Ahmad Eid is almost identical to the one put forward by the coordination committee for the June 30 protests, and called on all political factions to agree over it.
“After the Departure” also has a legal aspect. One demand is that the president should call early elections. According to legal experts, this would give the president the right to choose his successor, as Mubarak had done by transferring his powers to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
In this regard, Counselor Mahmoud Zaki, vice president of the State Council, told Al-Akhbar that there are several legal scenarios in the event the post of president becomes vacant.
If the president steps down, Zaki said, according to Article 153 of the current constitution, the speaker of the parliament takes over presidential powers. As this is not possible since the parliament was dissolved, the powers go to the head of the Shura Council. Currently, that post is occupied by Ahmed Fahmi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader.
Although the Constitutional Court ruled that the Shura Council was invalid, its opinion was the council can continue to function until a new parliament is elected. This would continue to be the case even if the president steps down, and consequently, his powers would be transferred to the head of the Shura Council.
The second scenario, meanwhile, would come into effect if the State Council deems the Constituent Assembly and the referendum on the constitution invalid. This would invalidate the article of the constitution that deals with the powers of the president should he step down, according to Zaki.
Dawoud al-Baz, professor of constitutional law at the University of al-Azhar, gave Al-Akhbar another legal opinion. He said that if the president steps down, his powers would be transferred to the prime minister. Baz noted that if the head of the Shura Council assumes presidential powers then this would be a matter of protocol but not necessarily one that is constitutional.
Otherwise, Baz said, if the president resigns under popular pressure, then a presidential council can be formed, or the head of the Constitutional Court or any other person chosen by the rebels can become president.
In that case, the constitution would go along with the president, and would thus not be a reliable authority.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.