Egypt´s transition upended by court ruling (+video) (CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR) By Kristen Chick CAIRO, EGYPT 06/14/12)
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A dramatic decision by Egypt´s top court today could force the
democratically elected parliament to dissolve. Some called the move a
soft coup by the interim military rulers.
Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court today ruled to dissolve the
Islamist-dominated parliament and affirmed the right of Ahmed Shafiq,
a longtime minister under ousted leader Hosni Mubarak, to run for
The dramatic decision effectively wipes away the transition timetable
drawn up after former president Mubarak was forced to step down in
February 2011, setting the table for a possible confrontation between
the ruling military and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The ruling, issued by a court many see as politicized, was perceived
by some Egyptians to be a power grab by Egypt’s Supreme Council of
the Armed Forces (SCAF) just weeks before it had pledged to hand over
power to an elected president.
The decision also deals a major blow to the Brotherhood, which had
dominated parliamentary elections that ended in January. Since then,
the Brotherhood has been locked in a power struggle with the
generals. Some in Egypt called the move a soft coup by the military.
It came just a day after Egypt’s Justice Ministry extended new arrest
powers to the military police and intelligence, which some rights
activist said amounts to martial law.
The move leaves Egypt with no parliament or new constitution just
days before a new president will be elected, raising the stakes of a
race in which Shafiq, a former Air Force commander and Mubarak´s last
prime minister, faces off against the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed
Morsi. With the parliament dissolved, legislative power will revert
back to the SCAF. The future of the assembly chosen by parliament
this week to write a new constitution is now in doubt.
“I think it´s pretty clear that there might not be a transition at
this point,” says Michael Hanna, an Egypt expert at the New York-
based Century Foundation. “I think there are going to be elections of
a sort, but it’s clear that the institutional infrastructure of the
state is going to weigh in to protect its perceived interests.”
The court ruled that the law governing the parliamentary elections
was unconstitutional because it allowed party members to contest the
one-third of parliament seats that had been reserved for
independents. With one third of the assembly elected illegally, the
entire parliament was declared null. The court also struck down a law
passed by the parliament, aimed at keeping Mubarak-era figures out of
politics, that would have disqualified Shafiq from running for
A Brotherhood leader known for speaking his mind, Mohamed El Beltagi,
said on his Facebook page that the court’s ruling was a “full-fledged
coup.” But Dr. Morsi, in a television appearance hours after the
court decision, said he would remain in the race, and that Egyptians
must respect court rulings. He said the ruling did not amount to a
One key part of Egypt´s transition the court’s ruling throws into
question is the new constitution. Parliament elected a 100-member
panel to write the document Tuesday, but SCAF could potentially
declare it illegitimate and appoint a new body. The Brotherhood had
fought hard to dominate the assembly that will define the powers of
the new president, likely in anticipation of today’s ruling. Now,
that power could be snatched from its hands.
Ironically, the law that paved the way for the dissolution of the
parliament was issued after demands by a broad coalition of parties
that included the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party
(FJP). At the time, they insisted that reserving a third of
parliament for independents would benefit members of Mubarak’s regime
who wanted to run for office. They insisted on the amendment despite
warnings by SCAF that it would be unconstitutional.
The law that would have disqualified Shafiq, which was passed by the
Brotherhood-dominated parliament, was problematic from the start,
says Hanna. The Brotherhood could have crafted a law that had a solid
legal basis, but instead chose to pass a sloppy law easily declared
That approach typifies the missteps of the Brotherhood, and the rest
of Egypt’s political forces, since the beginning of the transition.
SCAF has exploited those mistakes and divisions for its own benefit,
“They [SCAF] have been blessed by the nature of their opponents, and
they´ve taken advantage of their underlying credibility, and the
fatigue of Egyptians, and they´ve used all the modalities at their
disposal” to shape the transition in their favor, he says.
Some disagree that the court’s decision was the result of political
pressure. “I don’t think there’s been tampering,” says Hisham Kassem,
a newspaper publisher and long-time rights activist. “The ruling
makes sense.” He says the FJP overreached by pressing for the
unconstitutional amendment allowing it to compete for independent
seats, and this is the result. “We´re looking at the classical
political gluttony of FJP,” he said.
Some Egyptians who supported the revolt against Mubarak bemoaned the
ruling today, considering it a consolidation of the military’s power.
It is unclear how many Egyptians share that feeling. Many are
fatigued from the drawn-out transition, and may oppose new protests
against military rule. Others may be happy to see the Brotherhood
Bassem Kamel, a revolutionary turned member of parliament for the
Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said the court ruling is positive
because his party will likely gain more seats when new elections are
held, and reduce Islamist control of the parliament. After winning
nearly half the parliamentary seats, the Brotherhood has lost
popularity for its perceived lack of results in parliament and its
failure to stick to its pledges.
Mr. Kamel says he doesn´t support concentrating power in the hands of
the military. “But if we have to choose between the military and the
Islamists, I think the military is better,” he said. “We told the
Muslim Brotherhood many times, ‘please be on our side to be together.
If we are against you, you will be alone against the SCAF. We will
not fight the SCAF for you.’ … But all the times they are trying to
be alone and they think they are stronger. So it´s their decision,
not ours.” (© The Christian Science Monitor. 06/14/12)
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