The current conflict is between democracy, governance, and the military coup; not the Brotherhood and the opposition
Tarek Al Bishry is an Egyptian thinker and Judge, considered one of Egypt's top legal minds. He was born in Cairo on November 1, 1933. His grandfather, Salim Al Bishry, was shaykh of Al Azhar from 1900–1904 and 1909-1916. His father, 'Abd al-Fattah Al Bishry, was president of the Egyptian Court of Appeal until his death in 1951.
On February 15, 2011 Al Bishry was appointed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to head the committee set up to propose constitutional changes in the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.
Al Bishry was a secular leftist but became a prominent "moderate Islamic" political thinker, which gained him respect as a bridge between the movements.
'The 2012 constitution, which was disabled by the July 3 2013 coup, gives the ministry supported by the parliament almost full authority in policy-making and the management of the country's affairs, far more than the president's powers'The matter at hand during this difficult time, which began with the events on June 30 2013 and culminated in a military coup on July 3 2013, is not the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and whether or not they will remain in power. It is in fact a matter of the democratic constitutional system which was a result of the January 25 revolution, and whether Egypt will preserve this system or if it will nip it in the bud, replacing it with a military coup that would place Egypt under a new dictatorship that would last for decades to come.
The observation of events since July 3 indicates that we are facing an action carried out by the Armed Forces leadership and announced by the Commander in Chief and the Minister of Defence after a political meeting with some religious and political figures he had hand-picked to stand by him and support him. They announced the suspension of the constitution which had been put to a referendum by the Egyptian people upon and received 63.6 per cent of votes in a free and fair referendum. Moreover, an interim president of Egypt was appointed, thus deposing the constitutional president elected in the fair and free presidential elections carried out by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The coup leader gave the appointed interim president the authority to issue constitutional declarations, and this is in effect for an indefinite period of time, even before a Prime Minister was appointed. Moreover the President of the Republic, who was deposed by the coup, was arrested. Thus, we have become a country without a constitution and without a recognised ruling system.
The question at hand is; what is a military coup if that isn't one?
It has been said that the matter was about overthrowing the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the parliamentary elections, in accordance with the new constitution, were on the verge of being held. In fact, they were scheduled to take place and a parliament was due to be in place by the beginning of June, if it weren't for the opposition's call to invalidate the decision for elections, which was accepted by the court on grounds of formalities. However, they seemed legal except for some details concerning the electoral law, and even these obstacles were on the verge of being resolved, and the new law and the elections were close to being held. Moreover, it cannot be said that the Brotherhood were going to control of the state's agencies and institutions to ensure the results of the elections would be in their favour, because the facts of the coup that recently occurred prove that the state's administration and security devices were not under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood no matter how hard they might have tried.
The consequence of a non-Brotherhood majority in the upcoming parliament, which was expected due to the decreased popularity of the Brotherhood after coming into office (at the height of their popularity in late 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood had less than 40 per cent of the parliamentary seats, and the President, a Brotherhood candidate, received 25 per cent of the votes in the first round and only 51.7 per cent of the votes in the second round between him and Ahmed Shafik) would have been that the government would have been formed without them, or that they would not have had a dominant part in it.
The 2012 constitution, which was suspended by the July 3 2013 coup, gives the government, supported by the parliament, almost full authority in policy-making and the management of the country's affairs, far greater than the president's powers. Moreover, this same constitution dictates that the Prime Minister overrules the President in most decisions.
That was all on the verge of being put into effect in accordance with the constitution and sound constitutional procedures. However it was not, and instead, the leaders of the armed forces moved to declare the suspension of the constitution, leaving the country, once again, in a state of governance that is neither constitutional nor democratic.
It may be said that the action of the Armed Forces leadership was a result of the people's movement that took place on June 30, and that the movement was similar to that of the January 25 2011 revolution. This comparison is invalid and untrue because the movement of the people on January 25 was a unified political action agreed upon by the people with a single demand: the removal of Hosni Mubarak and his group from government and the establishment of a democratic system, while restoring the people's liberties. Hence, with this unified popular demand, the Armed Forces had the right to take action in response to the people's undisputed undivided consensus.
As for this time, the movement on June 30 2013 was an action divided among the masses gathered in Tahrir Square and elsewhere who opposed the government of the elected president, and the masses gathered in Rabaa Al-adaweya Square and other places who supported the current elected president and his government and demanded he remain in power. This divided action between two different groups with opposing goals and demands can only be resolved through elections in accordance with the constitution. There is no justification for the Armed Forces to intervene and resolve the issue in favour of one side at the expense of the other, as this would be considered a partisan act in which it would support one political party over the other, while the Armed Forces are prohibited from engaging in such action. Such action would be far from the duty of protecting people's interests and the preservation of national security, rather it is a bias towards one party over another and towards a set of internal policies over others, which makes it a coup.
At the moment we are not facing a battle between the Muslim Brotherhood in power and their opponents, because that battle could have been resolved in accordance with the 2012 constitution through parliamentary elections and a consequent government formation that reflects the real popular support for each of the rival groups, which would have, constitutionally, limited the President's powers, according to the election results.
We are, however, facing a battle concerning democracy and the constitution, which relapsed due to the coup carried out by the Armed Forces leadership. This leadership took advantage of a popular opposition against the Muslim Brotherhood, and drove them to support it in the battle of extinguishing the spirit of the January 25 2011 revolution, along with constitutional democracy, and to take us back to the brutal totalitarian regime.
I believe that the armed forces themselves, its men and women, are innocent of this, because they were deployed to the streets based on orders from their leaders and took control of the country's facilities, not to carry out a military coup, but to secure state facilities and the Egyptian masses who were expected to take part in the June 30 movement to prevent any destructive infiltrators. However, their leadership exploited this deployment and gave it other political implications related to destroying the constitutional democratic system the Egyptians were in the process of building. However, the leaders of the coup did not realize that by suspending the constitution and deposing the President they disbanded the government, the existence of which is exactly what gives the Armed Forces Leader legitimacy for his orders, as one of its ministers.
The people must realize that their present quest does not concern the restoration of the Muslim Brotherhood's rule, but the defence of the constitution and the democratic system. Moreover, they must make a political stance, not between supporting the Muslim Brotherhood or their opponents, but between defending democracy or supporting despotic rule.
As for those who are now seeking to bridge the gap between the two points of view, as I have been asked by many to address this matter and contribute to it, I say we are facing a dilemma, which is the fact that it is almost impossible for those who resort to a military coup to abandon it because their personal fate has become linked to the fate of the coup. On the other side, those who may wish to compromise on certain constitutional democratic matters to avoid the material wrath of the coup, any such compromise would create a dangerous constitutional precedent that would always continue to threaten the democratic system, creating the potential for forces to take action at any time to impose any of its demands in light of a political crisis, as experienced by other countries, such as Turkey, Latin America, and Africa for decades.
May God save Egypt from this fate.
The author is an Egyptian constitutional expert. This article is a translation of the Arabic text which appeared in Shorouk Newspaper on 10 July, 2013
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