From presidential council to revolutionary trials: What does Tahrir want this time?

Zeinab El Gundy , Thursday 7 Jun 2012

The latest outpouring of national protest has coalesced around key demands, embraced by many but not all as presidential run-off elections near

People gather during protests at Tahrir square in Cairo June 4, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

After verdicts were announced in the Mubarak trial, and following shocking results from the first round of Egypt's presidential elections, hundreds of thousands flocked to Tahrir Square and other squares across the country in angry marches and protests against SCAF (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces), Ahmed Shafiq, presidential contender from the old regime, and the public prosecution and judicial system.

But with Tahrir Square fully packed, one question remained: What do the people want this time?

The gathering that overtook Tahrir Square in short shrift seemed unplanned, with several political groups from left to right uniting after weeks of polarisation reached to a climax in the presidential elections.

The first demand that appeared, spurring huge discussion, was that for the formation of a presidential council to include the main pro-revolutionary presidential candidates: Hamdeen Sabbahi, Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh, Khaled Ali, Mohamed Morsi and Mohamed ElBaradei.

The demand seemed to be more than a wish by different revolutionary political groups trying to find unified front, especially after former presidential candidate Khaled Ali declared in Tahrir Square Monday, alongside Sabbahi and Abul-Fotouh, that the presidential council would be announced Friday in Tahrir.

Despite that political powers supporting the idea of a presidential council want the Muslim Brotherhood to join in, to give the council more power and support, the answer from the Brotherhood came in less than 24 hours with leading member and Freedom and Justice Party MP Essam El-Arian declaring the group's refusal of the idea.

"The presidential council is unconstitutional; anyone can appeal against it in the Constitutional Court," El-Arian said on television Saturday night. Later Mohamed Morsi's presidential campaign announced that if elected, Morsi would retain a presidential team made of pro-revolutionary candidates.

Soon other presidential candidates began to react to the idea, including those who on the same stage when Ali announced the plan to announce the presidential council Friday.

Abul-Fotouh said he was surprised with what Ali said on stage in Tahrir and that all talks held among popular presidential candidates were about a revolution command council.

That was confirmed in a statement issued by Sabbahi’s campaign Wednesday, adding that the popular Nasserist candidate has not declared his approval of becoming a member in a presidential council.

Activist and writer Nawara Negm supports the idea of a presidential council. “We have tried everything, including the elections, and failed. Why do we not try the presidential council solution as a revolutionary political solution?” Negm told Ahram Online, adding that she sees the correct path as having a presidential council take over power and then for a new constitution to be drafted.

Negm and other activists, including noted activist Asmaa Mahfouz of the 6 April Youth Movement, started a hunger strike along with a sit-in outside parliament, announcing they will not end their strike or sit-in except when parliament takes a stand and forces the Disenfranchisement Law (which would disqualify Shafiq) to be implemented.

MP Ziad Al-Eleimi of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (SDP) also supports the idea of having a presidential council. “Having a presidential council is the only way to bring down Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential elections,” MP Eleimi said in Tahrir Square Monday, adding that the presidential council should be made of the three candidates that got highest number of votes excluding Shafiq.

The SDP MP explained that the council should rule the country for one year until a new constitution is drafted.

Meanwhile, Laila Marzouk, the mother of Khaled Said, whose murder in 2010 helped sparked the January uprising in 2011, announced in the second anniversary of his death that she was going to boycott the run-offs, calling for a civilian presidential council as a revolutionary solution to save the country from choosing between two presidential candidates she described as “cholera and the plague.”

On the other hand, there are those who refuse the idea. Ibrahim Houdabi, an Islamist researcher, is one. “We have to press for the disqualification of Shafiq instead,” Houdabi said.

Other demands that emerged from Tahrir Square include the dismissal of public prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahmoud, revolutionary trials for Mubarak and officers accused of killing protesters, and applying the Disenfranchisement Law.

The dismissal of Mahmoud as public prosecutor has long been a demand, considering that Mahmoud was appointed by Hosni Mubarak.

Revolutionary trials are also an old demand, especially that prosecution and judicial system in Egypt has failed to convict any police officer accused of killing protesters in the early days of the January 25 Revolution.

“These demands are triggered directly by the Mubarak court verdict. By pressure they can be achieved,” leftist activist Wael Khalil told Ahram Online.

“Applying the Disenfranchisement Law in Egypt will force Shafiq to drop out from the presidential elections and for new presidential elections to be staged from the beginning,” Khalil explained.

The Disenfranchisement Law is currently being reviewed by the Supreme Constitutional Court which will rule on its constitutionality 14 June, just two before the start of the election run-offs.

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