Thursday, December 6, 2012

Egypt 2013 Panel Discussion- Kansas University (2)


How Egypt’s uprising changed the structure of governance? Initially, the uprising began on Police Day as a protest against the abuses committed by the security forces. Eventually, it left the police less feared than before and less respected than ever. Mubarak stepped down and turned power over to military (Supreme Council of Armed Forces) that dissolved the Parliament, dismissed Mubarak’s last prime Minister and changed the Supreme Constitutional Court Law allowing the Court more independence and the next president less influence in choosing its Chief Justice. In this sense, it would seem that both the military and the judiciary were the two institutions that continued to exist after the uprising.

It was the military that was assigned to drive the country through the transition process. It took major decisions in terms of setting the road map regarding the elections and the constitution. However, like any other military, Egypt’s military did not have the experience to make political decisions and therefore it made major mistakes. One critical mistake was salvaging the 1971 Constitution despite the majority voting to just amend its problematic articles. Another critical mistake was designing the elections law in an unconstitutional way that led to dissolving the lower chamber of the Parliament and creating a legal threat to the upper chamber too.

The Judiciary played two roles through reviewing the legality of major steps and supervising the voting process. Its power of judicial review led to decisions that were not welcomed by some political parties such as the decision to dissolve the first Constituent Assembly assigned with drafting the constitution and the decision to dissolve the lower chamber of the Parliament. Its task to supervise the voting process started with the March 2011 Referendum, then the parliamentary elections for the two chamber, and ended with the presidential elections that resulted in Mursi winning.

On July 2012, President Mursi took oath before the Supreme Constitutional Court to start exercising his powers. The Main source of these powers is the March 2011 Constitutional Decree that allowed the military the legislative and executive powers until electing a parliament and a president. However, after dissolving the lower chamber of the parliament and one day before announcing the name of the President Elect, the military issued another Constitutional Decree (June 2012) keeping some executive and all legislative powers. Later on, Mursi dismissed his senior military officers and issued a Constitutional Decree (August 2012) revoking the one issued by the military.

In brief, the “System of Governance” as mentioned in Part V of the 1971 Constitution ended up with the executive and legislative powers in the hands of the military and the judicial powers in hands of the judiciary (considering the Supreme Constitutional Court part of it). Now, with Mursi in office holding both executive and legislative powers, the doctrine of separation of powers seems to be at risk. As the head of the executive, he repositioned the military to be "theoretically" part of the executive branch again and at the same time he declared that he would exercise the legislative powers only if necessary. However, his clash with the judiciary, as I will explain later, represents a serious threat to the doctrine.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Egypt 2013 Panel Discussion- Kansas University (1)


Last week, the University of Kansas hosted a panel lecture on the political, economic and social state of Egypt moving into the new year. “Egypt 2013: Uncovering Misconceptions about the Muslim Brotherhood, anti-Islam Video, and Post-Revolution Changes” was co-sponsored by KU Students for Justice in the Middle East (SJME), KU Center for Global & International Studies, African and African American Studies, KU Middle East Studies and Kansas African Studies Center. I am honored for the opportunity to join this panel with Jacqueline Brinton, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Marwa Ghazali, Anthropology PhD candidate. I am very grateful to Hamzah Firman for helping me preparing for this event.

To explain how the political system is developing in Egypt, I briefly explained how the current developments fit in the history of struggle for democracy in Egypt during the last century. The doctrine of separation of powers is on the top of some constitutional values that Egyptians recognized during this struggle. In this sense, the 1919 Revolution and the adoption of the 1923 Constitution represent one step forward in terms of respecting this doctrine of separation of powers. On the other hand, the 1952 Coup d'Etat and salvaging the 1945 constitution draft represent one step backward by breaching this doctrine. The 1971 Constitution that existed during the 2011 uprising reveals a middle stage. “System of Governance” in Part V allocated the state powers among 8 bodies. Three of them are the classical branches of government: the Legislative, the Executive and the Judicial. The remaining five bodies represent other key players that should fit within the boundaries of the doctrine during drafting the new constitution. They are (1) the Head of State, (2) the Supreme Constitutional Court (3) the Armed Forces and the National Security Council, (4) the Police and (5) the Socialist Public Prosecutor (which was abandoned in 2010 Amendments). The major problem with this constitution was the articles allowing the president to have absolute power over these bodies.

The question is: how this formula of allocating the state powers was affected during the uprising and during the transition process?