Editorial: The final chapter
BY RANIA AL MALKY
Cairo: In his hospital bed at Tora prison, Egypt’s old tyrant must be reveling in satisfaction, seeing that his legacy lives on, as he watches protégé Ahmed Shafik rise from the ashes of his regime and stick his tongue out to the “revolution.”
Backed by his uniformed loyal subjects in the military council, a complicit judicial system and his son’s business cronies, Mubarak must be preparing his suitcase, ready to start a new life as an ex-president in Sharm El-Sheikh.
The Supreme Constitutional Court Thursday ruled in favor of Shafik, declaring parliament’s amendments to the political exclusion law unconstitutional. The PA’s rushed last-ditch attempt to disenfranchise remnants of the old regime, which was ironically spurred by the decoy presidential bid of ex-intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, failed to exclude Shafik.
The ruling comes as no surprise. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Farouk Sultan, also heads the Presidential Election Committee (PEC), which approved an appeal by Shafik challenging his legal disqualification from the first round of the election. Sultan’s decision came despite the general legal consensus that since the law was ratified by the PA and approved by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, it was obligatory for him to implement it.
The questionable mandate of the PEC undercuts its decision to refer the political exclusion law to the Supreme Court from the start. How can the same agency behave on the one hand as an administrative body with the final say on the status of presidential candidates and election results; and on the other hand as a judicial authority with the right to refer laws to the Supreme Court?
While the pro-Shafik ruling was expected, the same court’s decision to uphold a lower court’s previous ruling deeming the parliamentary elections law unconstitutional was the final revelation. Thursday’s decision effectively annuls last November’s legislative elections based on the opinion that the PA law is unconstitutional since it violates the principle of equal opportunity because it allows candidates belonging to political parties to contest one third of the PA seats allocated to individuals, as opposed to party lists which are given two-thirds.
It’s still unclear whether the Supreme Court has the authority to dissolve parliament or whether this ruling was simply a prelude for SCAF to issue a complementary constitutional decree giving it the authority to assume legislative power and take over the constituent assembly until a new parliament is eventually chosen through “free and fair” elections a la November 2010. The handover of power to an “elected” president is only part of the charade.
Yet none of this is a coincidence. The scene is fraught with the ugly stench of conspiracies, betrayals and back deals. Two days before the final confrontation between revolutionary forces, embodied in the MB’s Freedom and Justice Party’s presidential candidate and all their Islamist and secular supporters who have backed the uprising from day one; and the icon of the former regime with all his counter-revolutionary supporters, whether ex-NDP or the self-centered class known to jump on the bandwagon, a court rules to dissolve the only legitimate, democratically-elected institution in the country.
Let’s put our reservations about the lopsided power balance in the PA aside. Naturally the first free and fair elections were going to yield an Islamist majority (which was not only the case in Egypt, but all over the Arab world). Even though Egypt’s MB has worked 80 years for this day, they were clearly ill-prepared when it came thanks both to their inadequate performance and a hostile executive authority intent on obstructing the path of a democratically-elected body, just to say “we told you so.”
But the crisis began long before Thursday’s court ruling. The first match was struck by the so-called secular opposition itself, in fact from within the PA. The political Islamophobes, unknowingly exploited by SCAF, its intelligence network and the state security apparatus, spearheaded the biggest blow to the legitimacy of the entire transitional period yet. It was none other than socialist/Nasserist MP Abul Moez El-Hariri who initiated the case challenging the PA’s electoral law, which ironically had him elected into parliament.
This case was merely one manifestation of a dogged, unwavering campaign by the non-Islamist opposition in the PA to tear the house down knowing full well that their actions were bound to play into the hands of the SCAF-led counter-revolution. The more the anti-Islamist black propaganda escalated, the more defensive, reactionary and belligerent the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party behaved, unable to shake off their victim mentality for the obvious reason that they were still, by and large, being treated like the shunned Islamist opposition of yore, when in fact they were in the drivers’ seat but failing miserably to steer the path of conciliation and consensus.
The smear campaigns were not confined to the state media machine but insidiously infiltrated privately owned pulpits posing as independent. It began with analogies between the FJP to the disbanded National Democratic Party, until eventually all memory of the Brotherhood’s participation in the 18-day uprising was blotted out.
The absurdity reached a head with the recent insinuation that the Brotherhood was responsible for the killing of protesters during the February 2, 2011 medieval attack on Tahrir on camel and horseback, a blatant lie first propagated by suspect in the case presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik and a SCAF general Ruweiny, who not so long ago confessed on air in a TV show phone in that he used to spread “false news” in Tahrir just to calm down the mob.
In this toxic political atmosphere and on the eve of a runoff that has taken us back 16 months, the Minister of Justice issues decree No. 4991 for 2012 giving authority to officers, noncommissioned officers of military intelligence and military police to conduct judicial arrests of civilians for “crimes” such as “resisting the rulers and failing to comply with their orders” and “disrupting traffic.”
The decree not only renders the recent revocation of the emergency law a cosmetic smokescreen, but is also a clear prelude to a brutal Shafik-led crackdown first on the Brotherhood and next on the non-Islamist opposition whose right to peaceful expression, free association and protest will abruptly be stamped out as soon as he takes power, his victory a forgone conclusion.
If you’re not a Shafikist, don’t hold your breath. Whether you’re convinced that the Brotherhood is the solution, or choose to give MB candidate Mohamed Morsi your protest vote; whether you boycott or spoil your ballot, the results will be the same: SCAF is here to stay.
Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of The Egypt Monocle.