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Ahram (Egypt) - Vote and protest for the revolution

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  • Paul
    Ahram (Egypt) - Thursday, 01 December 2011 Vote and protest for the revolution Elections alone will not secure the Egyptian revolution; protest has its place
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2011
      Ahram (Egypt) -
      Thursday, 01 December 2011

      Vote and protest for the revolution
      Elections alone will not secure the Egyptian revolution; protest has its
      place too
      Ibrahim El-Houdaiby , Wednesday 30 Nov 2011


      Egypt’s parliamentary elections kicked off in the midst of enormous
      political turbulence. With an all-time high turnout for the first round
      of voting, at nearly 70 per cent of registered voters, Egyptians are
      electing the first post-revolutionary parliament to replace the eroding
      legitimacy of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), ruling the
      country since Mubarak’s ouster in February.

      SCAF earned its temporary, de facto political legitimacy when Mubarak
      stepped down in February. Promising to hand over power to an elected
      president and parliament within six months, SCAF’s legitimacy has been
      eroding with its failure to deliver on these promises, as well as
      devastating performance on the economic and security fronts, ongoing
      assaults on freedom of speech, militarisation of the state through
      pushing civilians through military tribunals, and the massacre of tens
      of Egyptians and injury of thousands during confrontations between
      demonstrators and state forces in November.

      While elections were already scheduled to kick off 28 November, this
      erosion of SCAF legitimacy intensified the need for elections to create
      an alternative legitimate body to which power is transferred. Protestors
      demanded an immediate ousting of SCAF and the appointment of a national
      salvation government, a presidential council of different presidential
      candidates, or a council of judges as an alternative. Failure to create
      consensus due to divides amongst revolutionary and societal powers (most
      significantly the divide between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian
      Bloc), alongside the revolutions’ need for popular support, necessitate
      the resorting to democratic means to create alternative legitimacy.

      But the battle of power transfer is not limited to parliamentary
      elections. According to the temporary constitutional declaration of
      March, SCAF would retain presidential powers and authorities even after
      the election of a parliament. These powers will only be transferred to
      civilians when a president is elected. Field Marshall Tantawi — head of
      the SCAF — announced that presidential elections will take place by June
      2012, after the ratification of a new constitution. SCAF, according to
      this scenario, would have sufficient power to influence the drafting of
      the new constitution in a manner that preserves its political and
      economic powers.

      A draft document of constitutional principles announced by the former
      cabinet’s deputy prime minister sheds light on SCAF’s intentions. It
      assures SCAF’s full authority over the military’s financial and
      political decision making, and broadens its scope of work to include
      "defending the constitution". It also allows for its intervention in the
      selection of the constitution-drafting committee, and in the procedures
      governing the work thereof.

      This, in the final analysis, leads to a situation of dual sovereignty,
      where people and the military assume sovereignty in different domains.
      However, these domains are not mutually exclusive, and the overlap of
      sovereignty would lead to a conflict between the elected and non-elected
      components of the state, hence impeding developmental efforts and
      jeopardising the revolution’s very objective. Turkey’s experience with
      the Kemalist military since the 1950s, and particularly since the 1970s,
      illustrates the destructive impact for this dual sovereignty on both the
      military and civil domains.

      While elections are important to merge democratic and revolutionary
      legitimacy in a broad institution representing different trends, protest
      is important to give legislators sufficient legal and political power.
      The ongoing protests have wiped out the notorious El-Selmi document of
      constitutional principles, but very little has been achieved on other
      fronts so far. The SCAF has not yet made a clear statement on
      withdrawing from all aspects pertaining to the drafting of a new
      constitution, and it still insists the elected parliament will not form
      a government.

      Protestors should fight the battle for people’s sovereignty through
      insisting on the transfer of power from SCAF to parliament and the
      immediate election of a new president. SCAF insists that the transfer of
      power to parliament violates the constitutional declaration. This
      declaration, however, is comprised of three sets of articles. First are
      the articles of the 1971 Constitution amended and ratified during the
      referendum in March. Second, are the articles of the same constitution
      that have not been amended. Third, are the articles defining the role of
      SCAF and the time intervals of the transitional period. While the first
      and second components enjoy complete and partial democratic legitimacy
      respectively, the third is purely the making of the SCAF, the reversing
      of which does not violate any democratic procedures. Rather, it is more
      democratic to amend it, since the legitimacy of a democratically elected
      parliament supersedes the eroding de facto legitimacy of SCAF.

      The fear from an Islamist majority in parliament should not shake the
      persistence of protestors. Not only should the acceptance of democracy
      mean the acceptance of Islamists when democratically elected, but it is
      also much easier to resume the struggle over Egypt’s roadmap against
      civilian politicians not army officers. Further, a few measures could be
      taken to marginalise fears, including resorting to a two-thirds majority
      instead of a simple majority parliamentary vote of confidence for the
      cabinet. This would ensure wide representation and facilitate the
      building of consensus required for the selection of the constitution
      drafting committee.

      March’s constitutional referendum allows for presidential elections to
      take place immediately after parliamentary elections and mandates that
      they take place before a new constitution is ratified. The election of a
      president in January is therefore necessary to push SCAF out of the
      political scene whilst defining Egypt’s political future.

      Parliamentary elections are necessary but insufficient in the battle
      to retain sovereignty and ensure revolutionary success. Parallel paths
      of elections and protests, whilst continuing to pressure politicians and
      activists to come closer together and collectively closer to people’s
      demands and aspirations, are essential for the revolution to continue,
      and for Egypt’s future to reflect the will of its people.
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