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Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Political stability remains elusive for Egypt

There is an eerie similarity between how the 2012 and 2014 constitutions were drafted, one that highlights the zero-sum thinking all Egypt's recent regimes have adopted

Sahar Aziz , Sunday 23 Feb 2014
Views: 3456
Views: 3456

Egyptians recently concluded their second attempt at passing a constitution that conveys the aspirations of the 25 January 2011 uprising.  However, the 2014 constitution is not much different than the now maligned “Morsi constitution” of 2012 — whether in content or process.

Although the language in the two constitutions incrementally strengthened individual rights and preserved the rule of law, both drafting processes were fraught with exclusivity, circumscribed collaboration, and insufficient transparency. Contradictions abound between a purportedly legitimate constitutional drafting process and the violent crackdown and marginalisation of dissidents by those in control of the government at the time. 

Under Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and their Salafi allies dominated the process. Secular liberal parties, youth leaders and Copts were included in the constitutional drafting committee only to be ignored. Once it became clear that their inclusion was aimed to create an appearance of inclusiveness to legitimise an otherwise predisposed outcome, the non-Islamist groups had no option but to resign in protest.  

At the same time that Morsi was touting the pending passage of the new constitution, his supporters were violently quashing protesters in front of the presidential palace. Rather than realise such railroading would doom the constitution in the long run, Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood allies took a route all too familiar in Egyptian politics. He responded to dissent with force bolstered by a constitutional declaration that placed him above judicial scrutiny long enough to ram through the constitutional referendum to a public vote. With a low voter turnout of 33 percent and a boycott by multiple stakeholders excluded from the process, the constitution was approved by 64 percent of voters. 

Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood had won the legal battle, but would soon pay dearly when they lost the political war six months later.

The similarities between the Muslim Brotherhood’s domination over the 2012 Constitution, which ultimately led to their demise, and the secularists’ domination over the 2013 drafting process are glaring. Nearly one year after Morsi’s fatal push to vote on a constitution rejected by a number of influential political stakeholders, a second constitution was put before Egyptian voters in January 2014. But for different political actors it, too, was drafted through a non-inclusive process.

Indeed, voter turnout was a mere 36 percent, just a few points above the turnout for Morsi’s constitution with a large swath of Egyptian youth not bothering to vote. To them, the referendum’s outcome was predetermined just as it had been under Mubarak.

As the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership was detained en masse, predominantly secular and non-Islamist stakeholders, with the exception of the opportunistic Salafis, drafted the new constitution. The constitutional committee’s invitation for the Brotherhood to participate was met with the same rebuke by the non-Islamists one year prior. To the Brotherhood, this was merely an exercise in legitimisation of an otherwise illegitimate process in their eyes — ironically the same indictment that confronted the Muslim Brotherhood during the 2012 constitutional drafting process. 

Despite the promising language protecting individual rights in the 2014 constitution, the political reality could not be more contradictory. In August 2013, nearly a thousand civilians protesting against the deposal of Morsi were reportedly killed by Egyptian internal security forces in retribution for their refusal to stop their sit-in protests in Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Nahda squares. Even during Mubarak’s notorious police state, internal security forces had never killed so many Egyptians, some in cold blood, in such a short timeframe.  

When youth activists’ concerns with military trials of civilians and the increased powers of the military in the new draft constitution were ignored, they too resorted to the streets. Unable to stop the protests through political compromise, the interim president unilaterally passed a draconian anti-protest law that legalised the quashing of political dissent. And if these developments were not enough evidence of the polarised political climate, the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation effectively shut them out of politics. 

Though the past three years appear unpredictable, a common theme grips Egypt’s political landscape. 

The culture of authoritarianism grounded in a zero-sum game mentality has been the modus operandi for whoever is in power. Whether it was the SCAF’s harsh military trials of over 10,000 civilians to mute dissent, Morsi's ominous constitutional declaration placing him above the law, or the current military-backed interim government’s mass arrests of political dissidents from both the religious right and secular left; the Egyptian political process looks eerily similar to the Mubarak era.

Despite this, the January 2011 revolution has proven that the authoritarian mode of politics is not sustainable in the long run. While current rulers may win short term political gains by pushing through constitutions as the opposition is marginalised or imprisoned, the long term legitimacy of the document is jeopardised. This leads to further instability that Egyptians can no longer afford as they focus on strengthening their economy, creating more jobs, and improving the quality of their lives.

It is long overdue for whoever takes on the weighty responsibility of governing Egypt to recognise that legitimacy of the law is the key to sustainable political stability and economic prosperity for all Egyptians. Without such, the aspirations of the January 25 Revolution will remain unfulfilled.

The writer is associate professor of law, Texas A&M University School of Law.

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Aggie Football Fan
07-03-2014 02:32am
Why this professor knows what she is talking about
The World Reputation Rankings 2014 of the world’s top 100 universities in the world just came out. Let’s see was Texas A & M on the list, yes. Were any colleges or universities in the Arabic speaking world on the list, no. There were more universities on the list from the state of Texas than the entire Muslim world combined. This is what democracy, a free market economy and hard work will get you.
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Allen Stewart
03-03-2014 05:01pm
Sissi is destroying Egypt
Economy is collapsing, insecurity is rampent, tourism is zero, people losing hope and want to leave. Long live Sissi...but Saudi and Emirati money won't help you.
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28-02-2014 10:59pm
the author has told the truth
fascists and Zionists are trying to silence the truth. But we should leave the dogs barking and keep going.
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01-03-2014 07:34pm
The above comment was written by a Muslim brotherhood hacker.
Deception is all they have, now that Gen. Sisi is stripping their power to kill and terrorize Egyptians and tourists.

28-02-2014 03:04am
How mush money is Texas U. School of Law getting from hood sympathizers ?
I am entitled to ask this question since a huge number of US educational institutions accept large donations from hood related sources. The entire gamut runs from obscure regional colleges to ivy league universities. The donations are not a secret and I'll find out the amount (if any) received by your faculty dnd make it known even if it zero.
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02-03-2014 04:35pm
To Sam Enslow
I am entitled to raise this disclosure issue as a number of you tube revelaions from US sources quote the myriad of educational institutions in questions.As for this case I suggest you query the internet on this particular school and you will find surprising answers.
Sam Enslow
02-03-2014 12:12pm
We shall await your list of Brotherhood donors to US colleges. It will be especially interesting to see what you find for Texas. I would think before posting your "facts" you would have the ready as evidence of your statements.

28-02-2014 02:49am
Please author get your facts right
You are talking down the results of the referendum (not 36% but slightly over 38%). The difference may not be important, but it shows a spin on your part. In fact turn out results should have been considered close to 41%. The number of voters in the referundom was at least 25 percent higher than the Mb referundom in 2012. Hence the turnout was at least equal to 25 percent higher than for the 2012 referundom, a little over 32 percent. Make the calculation and you will get a turnout slightly over 40 percent. Also in 2014 the expat turnout was artificially very heavily penalized due to the new rule banishing voting by mail. If you add the some 300 000 potential votes thus eliminated to the 2014 turnout you would obtain a turnout close to 41 percent. Now this is a very material difference from your 36% spin.
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26-02-2014 05:42am
Another superficial review
Not sure why an associate professor of law in a second tier university, so far away from Egypt is qualified to pass judgment. The realities on the ground are very different than what news sources are repeating, especially western ones with their biases and MB PR machine in full swing. This constitution is far better than the 2012, as per testimony of many international observers. The issues of military trials were explained at great lengths by Amr Moussa, and is only a temporary artifact of current lawlessness, and will be repealed in a few years. As for lack of inclusiveness and transparency, drafting a constitution is not a democratic process (see how the US constitution was built and the whole notion of founding fathers). It's left for smart members of society who represent or speak on behalf of most currents. 50 is a great number - can't have hundreds battling for the text. We're doing great, just stop complaining.
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27-02-2014 07:37pm
Wrong Neil
A&M is primerily a school known for its ROTC, agriculture, and veterinary departments. It's law school is definitely not its strength. Given all the key realities this author left out to make her weak point that they are "similarities" in the writing of the two constitutions exposes her limitations as a legal mind. Morsi's constitution was written with bigotery in mind and excusing vast segments of society that are not members of brotherhood terror group. The new constitution left out the extremist MB terrorist group to the relief of the vast majority of Egyptians. No similarities here at all, unless you are Muslim brotherhood sympathizer.
27-02-2014 04:07pm
27-02-2014 02:44pm
ramiz, you may be interested to know, 'associate' professor refers to someone who has gained full tenure, while texas a& m is a first-tier university, and by her name, the author is obviouslyan ex-pata

25-02-2014 10:48pm
When terrorism spreads it's wings.
Safety, law and order becomes a priority. The more terror takes its liberties with the life's of the innocent the more controls are put in place. That's a fact of life this author totally ignores. Had guvernment controlls have not been increased this author would have been complaining about far worse conditions that would have prevailed. Not to mention far more deaths.
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23-02-2014 05:56pm
I salute you
You nailed it bro. Glad you left your name out too.
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Hazem L
23-02-2014 04:41pm
Excellent points in this article. A lack of respect for rights or tolerance of political opposition has badly hurt Egypt. It is very difficult to create a democratic system while this problems run amok. It is like once people gain power, they drop flexibility or the capacity to change course.
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