Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 02, 2012

Egypt's Continuing Power Struggle

To continue the excellent comments on the recent Egypt thread some links to further developments.

The complete translation of the proposed new constitution. In my view it is a convoluted mess.

Here are some of the many controversial issues with this proposed constitution. Many details, especially with regards the personal freedom, unclear and open to dangerous interpretations and manipulation. The balance of power between the executive and the parliament is tilted towards the executive. Other points include the role of Al Azahr, freedoms of trade unions and many issues of social justice. The military and its budget is kept secret and under the military's control. This leaves the military open to  manipulation by foreign interests.

Some imam at a mosque where Morsi was praying ignited protests from worshipers when he compared Morsi with the prophet:

“Prophet Mohamed and the Caliphs used to dismiss and appoint judges, and there is no problem with Morsy doing that,” the imam said, according to an eyewitness.

Muslim Brotherhood followers blocked the high judges from entering their court building. The High Constitutional Court responded by freezing all further sessions.

It is unclear how the voting about this proposed constitution will be done. According to Egyptian law the judges have the task of supervising such votes but the judges are on strike to protests Morsi's powergrab.

The grievances against Morsi are certainly not only over these constitutional issues. What many Egyptians seem to be upset about is the continued reliance of Morsi on the Mubarak repression apparatus and its leading personalities as detailed here:

The president is disposed to neither the revolution nor social justice, and I cannot be convinced that he has immunized his decrees to protect the revolution when he has not once stood up to the repressive and security apparatus. Do we still need to teach people that absolute power corrupts absolutely?

The way Morsi, elected with little more than 25% of the eligible votes, is pushing to get this half baked constitution into place does not bode well for the future of Egypt.

Posted by b on December 2, 2012 at 08:48 AM | Permalink

Comments

I think Egypt's biggest problem is that they have to import one half of their food.

Posted by: par4 | Dec 2, 2012 9:34:02 AM | 1

For me the most important article is 197:

Article 197 A National Defense Council shall be created, presided over by the President of the Republic and including in its membership the Speakers of the House of Representatives and the Shura Council, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Interior, the Chief of the General Intelligence Service, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, the Commander of the Navy, the Air Forces and Air Defense, the Chief of Operations for the Armed Forces and the Head of Military Intelligence.

The President of the Republic may invite whoever is seen as having relevant expertise to attend the Council’s meetings without having their votes counted.

The Council is responsible for matters pertaining to the methods of ensuring the safety and security of the country and to the budget of the Armed Forces. It shall be consulted about draft laws related to the Armed Forces. Other competencies are to be defined by law.

To compare it to article 9 of the Al-Salmi document from a year ago, it is clear that the Army didn't get everything it wanted.

http://anarabcitizen.blogspot.com/2011/11/english-full-text-of-egypts.html

(9) The state alone shall establish armed forces, which are the property of the people, and which have as their mission to protect the country, the integrity, security and unity of its land, and to defend constitutional legitimacy. It is not permissible for anybody, organisation or party to form military or paramilitary bodies.

The Supreme Council for the Armed Forces is solely responsible for all matters concerning the armed forces, and for discussing its budget, which should be incorporated as a single figure in the annual state budget. The Supreme Council for the Armed Forces is also exclusively competent to approve all bills relating to the armed forces before they come into effect. The President of the Republic is the highest authority of the armed forces and the minister of defense is the general authority of the armed forces. The President of the Republic declares war after the approval of the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces and of the People’s Assembly has been obtained.

But it did get some things. In English the SCAF is responsible in the constitution for the budget, but not solely responsible. The parliament has to consult with the SCAF on drafts of bills related to the military in the constitution, where the SCAF would have been exclusively competent to approve bills under Al-Salmi.

Another difference is that in November 2011, the generals really were a separate group from the populace. Today, after Tantawi's resignation and replacement by a MB-favorable general, it is not clear that the SCAF could play a role of protecting US interests from Egyptian consensus values. Every retirement of a general from now on will see his replacement by another person approved by the president and much less likely vetted by the US Embassy.

The game one had to play as an Egyptian army officer during the Mubarak era, I'm hopefully thinking, may be changing. Before a general had to know the right things to say to their American counterparts. Now, maybe, an general will have to know the right things to say to those elements of the military closest to civilian political power.

So for my most important issue, I'm more or less happy. This seems to me a document that can lead Egypt out of colonial control by the US.

Posted by: Arnold Evans | Dec 2, 2012 10:33:10 AM | 2

"I think Egypt's biggest problem is that they have to import one half of their food."

They don't have to. They (by which I mean those who arrogate the power to do so) choose to, by maintaining the land ownership patterns established by the British. A programme of land reform, returning the land to the peasants would very quickly substitute food production for the current system of, what I take to be, plantation and share cropping to supply commodities for export.

So long as Egypt remains under the control of liberals, tied into the global imperial economy, committed to servicing an odious debt burden which can never be discharged, with the majority of its people subject to the vagaries of the labour market in a capitalist system caught up in a permanent crisis, no real change can take place.

Egypt is a land flowing with milk and honey most of which is drained away to the imperial metropolis. Issues of sectarian and secular government are of little real moment so long as imperialism is unchallenged.

Posted by: bevin | Dec 2, 2012 11:18:30 AM | 3

Arnold, somehow I do not see what you see.

This is the Egyptian army as it used to be

Egypt’s intransigence complicates relations with the U.S., and could create a stumbling block for future cooperation on American policy in the Middle East, especially if Congress uses it as an excuse to cut military aid, something the cables say Egypt considers “untouchable.”

“The more Egyptian military cooperation can be viewed as backstopping U.S. military requirements in the region, the easier it is to defend the Egyptian assistance program on the Hill,” Scobey wrote in the December 2008 cable. The last decade has seen repeated attempts by Congress, as recently as 2008, to cut military funding to Egypt or channel the money as economic aid. Those efforts ultimately have been blocked by frantic last-minute pressure from the Bush and Obama administrations.

But with Egypt’s power projected inward at a restive population, American officials continue to grapple with a clumsy military that’s ill prepared for modern challenges in an increasingly volatile region. “The cables reveal a military deeply reluctant to take part in regional counterterrorism efforts, and the focus on weapons necessary for desert battle is a reflection of that,” says Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who studies the Egyptian armed forces. “The Egyptian military is not good at or interested in, quite frankly, projecting power. It is there to ensure the survival of the regime and protect the country’s borders.”

This here is the new commander and defense minister
Profile: Egypt armed forces chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi

Following his appointment as defence minister and armed forces chief, many commentators in the Egypt media asked questions about Gen Sisi's relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi (far right) prays in Cairo, alongside President Mohammed Mursi (second-left) Gen Sisi (far right) is said to be a "religious man"

The pro-military owner and leading presenter of the TV station al-Faraeen, Tawfiq Ukasha, accused him of having close ties to the Islamist movement, to which President Mursi belongs.

Mr Ukasha alleged that Gen Sisi was "their man in Scaf" and reports also emerged that his wife wore the niqab, a full-face veil worn by some Muslim women, al-Ahram reported.

However, the Scaf insisted that its members had no partisan or ideological affiliation to any political forces in Egypt.

Mutaz Abdul Fattah, a professor at Cairo University, also said Gen Sisi did not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, writing on Twitter: "He is not a member of the Brotherhood; he is just a religious man."

The newspaper, al-Tahrir, also reported that Gen Sisi had "strong ties with US officials on both diplomatic and military levels".

He had studied in Washington, attended several military conferences there, and engaged in "joint co-operation with regard to war games and intelligence operations in recent years", it said.

From the point of view of the US, Egypt will go the way of Turkey or Pakistan. The Muslim Brotherhood can have sharia, as long as economics are in line with the World Bank and as long as security cooperation is in support of US strategy.

If things get out of end in Egypt the army will step in. They are in the very comfortable position of referee.


Posted by: somebody | Dec 2, 2012 11:24:35 AM | 4

Gulf cools towards Muslim Brothers

Posted by: somebody | Dec 2, 2012 12:08:24 PM | 5

somebody didn't post a comment, only a scary headline and a link, because the source of "Gulf cools . . ." is only Dubai’s chief of police, General Dahi Khalfan al-Tamim, who hardly speaks for the Gulf.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 2, 2012 12:14:45 PM | 6

linked article is mondediplo/Alain Gresh. it is worth a read.

Posted by: somebody | Dec 2, 2012 12:27:24 PM | 7

Egypt's top court, a Mubarak holdover, has been prevented from ruling on the legitimacy of the constitutional assembly, and thereby destroying what transitional structure Egypt currently has. This will allow the referendum on the constitution (and its expected approval) to proceed Dec 15.

That's good. With Egypt suffering from rising crime and economic problems the approval of the constitution would allow Egypt to return to some degree of normalcy, which is the most important consideration for the Egyptian people.


Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 2, 2012 12:28:38 PM | 8

@somebody 7
Why is it "worth a read?" I think it's trash journalism. (Although it lacks a graph.)

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 2, 2012 12:31:15 PM | 9

Constitutions are sometimes overrated in their importance. Not that one should neglect or ignore, but on the ground happenings - new legislation, lobbyists, fights for dominance, multiple other forces - are often more salient.

Varied ex.

The US constitution is a founding document, but today’s modern world makes short shrift of many of its provisions that can’t be properly or reasonably transposed to today. Basically, how it should be upheld, if at all, is just endless argument. (Mostly it isn’t respected or etc..)

The Coalition re-wrote Iraq’s constitution, 2004, and that changed nothing on the ground, did not affect Iraq’s future, in any way. I have never seen any reference to it at all concerning any serious matter. Never.

Small democratic Republics, like where I live, review their Constitutions.

The latest we got, a month ago, voted in, and oh it is horrible, it took several years of struggle and vicious pol arguments to get it on paper, is considered either BS or ‘the best we could do’ and is already being ignored and attacked by various parties. (Which can be done by referendum.) Ppl - judges, state functionaries, police, lawyers, social workers, biz owners, multinationals, diplomats, are not changing their actions in any way, adapting to a 'new' Constitution. They haven't even read it and won't. (52 pages!)

Now I don’t mean at all to dismiss Morsi’s moves and their importance.

Agreeing on and setting up a Constitution is not a trivial or dull matter, as it forces sitting down at the table and hammering out supposed general principles. But still. Life goes on around and without it. For Egypt, more important, might be the economic control of certain sectors by the Army, employment, food, etc. In a way the Constitution is a distraction, typical of a State autocratically run, by the Top to Down. Symbolic quarrels about the wording of who can be judged to be a victim of prejudice, etc.

(I haven’t read the proposed Constitution yet. Just a general comment.)


Posted by: Noirette | Dec 2, 2012 12:33:58 PM | 10

from Pat Lang, with whom I sometimes agree (as now):

Mursi is a skilled player. He is much more skilled that his opponents in Egypt and his foolish backers in official Washington. Prediction: His constitution will be approved handily in the 15 December, 2012 referendum. Anyone who speaks Arabic and who has wandered through Egypt from the Cairo slums to the Nile Delta knows that the majority of Egyptians are already Islamists.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 2, 2012 12:50:21 PM | 11

9, Don Bacon


Alain Gresh

Posted by: somebody | Dec 2, 2012 1:23:08 PM | 12

Sisi is Egypt's defense manager, according to the new constitution, he'd be the commander and chief of the armed forces. Morsi is, according to the constitution, the supreme commander of the armed forces.

If the commander in chief of the armed forces is the Muslim Brotherhood's man in the SCAF, which it seems he is, what is he going to referee when if, as is happening so far, the Muslim Brotherhood wins control of the other branches of government in elections?

Anyone who thought, as the military did in December 2011, that the military could use its monopoly over many aspects of foreign policy to prevent the views of the Muslim Brotherhood who had just won the People's Assembly at that time from being translated to foreign policy look like they thought wrong.

The military is, as much as could possibly be expected, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood almost as much as the rest of the government.

When the courts were the referees, the US could expect to be happy with the decisions those courts made. The US didn't want the Muslim Brotherhood to have too much power, the court annulled the election that the Muslim Brotherhood won and dissolved the People's Assembly.

When Sisi is the referee, I'd bet the Muslim Brotherhood is going to be happy with any decisions he makes. For example, in this latest contest between Morsi and the court, Tantawi might have at least threatened to remove Morsi, even if he didn't carry out the threat, it might have given the courts leverage.

Sisi did nothing of the kind. I suspected from the beginning that Morsi could only have made such a move if he believed both that Sisi would back him and that the rest of the military was most likely firmly under Sisi's control - that the US didn't have alternate paths to influence the military going around Sisi.

Goods are already flowing through the tunnels to Gaza according to the Washington Post. We'll see how the Sisi military makes policy over the next year, but I have high hopes that it will be already more independent from US influence than Turkey's military is today.

Posted by: Arnold Evans | Dec 2, 2012 1:35:53 PM | 13

@Arnold - Now, maybe, an general will have to know the right things to say to those elements of the military closest to civilian political power.

So for my most important issue, I'm more or less happy. This seems to me a document that can lead Egypt out of colonial control by the US.

That is a bit naive in my view. The U.S. is happy with Morsi. He did what he was told to do with regards to Gaza. He closed more tunnels than Mubarak closed. He happily signed on to IMF credits. (The MB chief is a billionare, the other leadership is bourgeois) The army officer's extra money still depends on U.S. payments.

How is that "out of colonial control by the US"?

Posted by: b | Dec 2, 2012 1:36:22 PM | 14

I didn't read the whole constitution, just skimmed some of the statements in the first 3-4 sections. In those I saw some things I would regard as good ideas, probably more I would not. The U.S. Constitution also has good ideas, but those are rarely put to practice, and when they are, only partially and in a corrupted manner. I'm not so sure this Egyptian constitution is that important as the government creating it is corrupt and will do as their Israeli-American masters tell them to, anyways. The revolution will have to be done again, and this constitution, as part of the present corruption, will be voided and replaced with something else of the choosing of the Egyptians at that time.

Posted by: вот так | Dec 2, 2012 1:51:02 PM | 15

@somebody
I would really appreciate it if, along with a link, you would post an informational comment on something you think important so that I could then decide if I want to read more or not. A blog is ideally not just a link portal, after all, but a forum for fact-sharing, opinion-sharing, and discussion -- a search for truth. And why should I take time to link to trash journalism?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 2, 2012 1:52:54 PM | 16

Has Morsi really closed more tunnels than Mubarak? I haven't myself seen a report of that. I know Fotouh, the former MB official went into Gaza during the conflict. Egypt wasn't really able to speak on the conflict as a nation because the courts had dissolved the People's Assembly.

When the US was supporting Mubarak, it was expressly because the US believed the alternative was Islamists who would not be as pliant about Israel as Mubarak was. I just fundamentally doubt the US had been wrong all along and that an elected government that successfully demanded to control the military will turn around and be no better than Mubarak.

Egypt has constraints. It is in a somewhat vulnerable position. On the other hand, it has the Suez Canal, which may prove interesting over the next few years.

But if they could, I think Egypt's voters would like Egypt to be the locus of anti-Zionist efforts even more than Iran's voters. Now Hosni Mubarak and his dictatorial apparatus were paid, bribed, not to think of ways to make that happen. I think the Muslim Brotherhood is beginning the process of Egypt of how to represent Egypt's values in the world despite the obstacles Egypt faces.

But most important, the MB is who the people of Egypt voted for. I believe voiding the election the MB won two days before the final stage of the Presidential election was designed to demoralize Morsi's supporters, and he won a slim victory despite that.

Now that the people of Egypt are voting, and it looks like their votes are beginning to be meaningful, it is their job to make sure MB does not become corrupt and does not become a new Mubarak administration. If I've been wrong about the people of Egypt all these years, and the people of Egypt want Mubarak's policies, then they have the right to vote for them.

Once the people of Egypt are both voting and have a constitution that puts elected officials ultimately in charge of all policy, my personal focus moves away from them toward getting the same thing for the people of the current US colonies of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE and others in the region.

Once you're meaningfully voting, whomever you vote for is fine with me.

Posted by: Arnold Evans | Dec 2, 2012 2:08:44 PM | 17

16, it does not get better when you repeat it. Le Monde Diplomatique is a legend in independent left wing "third world" analysis and Alain Gresh is a highly respected and knowledgeable Middle East analyst.

Posted by: somebody | Dec 2, 2012 2:22:58 PM | 18

Arab countries need to change the US-written script

http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_12_02/Arab-countries-need-to-change-the-US-written-script/

"As for the so-called Arab Spring, I would urge the Arab countries to try and rewrite the US-written scenario. Unfortunately, some Arab countries gave the US noninterference guarantees concerning Israel and one of the reasons of Syria’s current troubles is its stance on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

The Egyptian Constitution is part of that U.S. written scenario, though I would call it the Israeli-U.S. written scenario.

Posted by: вот так | Dec 2, 2012 2:33:31 PM | 19

Morsi's plan, apparently, is to finesse the court to accept the Assembly and its constitution, and still supervise the coming referendum.

Egypt State Information Service, Dec 2
Mekki: President will reassure judges soon

Vice-President Mahmoud Mekki described on Saturday 1/12/2012 the anger of judges over their independence after President Mohamed Morsi's recent constitutional declaration as "normal".

Mekki, who was speaking following Morsi's meeting with the constituent assembly members, ruled out the possibility that judges will implement their threat not to supervise a referendum slated for December 15 on the new constitution.

President Morsi will reassure judges and all segments of the Egyptian people soon, Mekki said, asserting that Morsi did not use the power of legislation that was handed over to him three months ago but in a minimal way. Morsi will remove all fears, Mekki said, adding that the dialogue with the judges is maintained to remove these fears.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 2, 2012 3:24:53 PM | 20

The Muslim Brotherhood English language twitter account self destructs - they want to leave the UN now :-))

Ikwanweb ‏@Ikwanweb

If all nations were alike, we would have had one constitution for all countries. No such thing as "universal rights." Each culture varies.

2h Ikwanweb Ikwanweb ‏@Ikwanweb

When we team up with the salafis, you can't mess with us yo. #unstoppable

Posted by: somebody | Dec 2, 2012 3:38:34 PM | 21

I think even opponents of the MB can agree that there is nothing tyrannical about this constitution. Correct?

There is no reason to think there will not be elections held on schedule, or that Morsi opposes or would not honor either an election defeat or the two 4 year term limit established in the constitution, correct?

For any of its flaws, nobody has found anything in this constitution to support fears that the drafters of the constitution did so trying to create an Islamic dictatorship.

Posted by: Arnold Evans | Dec 2, 2012 4:35:07 PM | 22

if you chose to overlook the shift of legislation and juridiction from the secular jurists to the clergy ...

Posted by: somebody | Dec 2, 2012 5:05:23 PM | 23

Is that tyrannical?

How does that lead to dictatorship?

Posted by: Arnold Evans | Dec 2, 2012 5:06:52 PM | 24


24)To answer your question - yes it is tyrannical as it infringes on universal human rights.
It means dictatorship if one individual and his circle are allowed to claim the will of god - as there is only one god
see "Supreme Leader of Iran" and assembly of experts of Iran


Of course there is always a worst case and best case scenario

Sharia's influence on both personal status law and criminal law is highly controversial, though. Some interpretations are used to justify cruel punishments such as amputation and stoning as well as unequal treatment of women in inheritance, dress, and independence. The debate is growing as to whether sharia can coexist with secularism, democracy, or even modernity...

Marriage and divorce are the most significant aspects of sharia, but criminal law is the most controversial. In sharia, there are categories of offenses: those that are prescribed a specific punishment in the Quran, known as hadd punishments, those that fall under a judge's discretion, and those resolved through a tit-for-tat measure (ie., blood money paid to the family of a murder victim). There are five hadd crimes: unlawful sexual intercourse (sex outside of marriage and adultery), false accusation of unlawful sexual intercourse, wine drinking (sometimes extended to include all alcohol drinking), theft, and highway robbery. Punishments for hadd offenses--flogging, stoning, amputation, exile, or execution--get a significant amount of media attention when they occur. These sentences are not often prescribed, however. "In reality, most Muslim countries do not use traditional classical Islamic punishments," says Ali Mazrui of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies in a Voice of America interview. These punishments remain on the books in some countries but lesser penalties are often considered sufficient.

Despite official reluctance to use hadd punishments, vigilante justice still takes place. Honor killings, murders committed in retaliation for bringing dishonor on one's family, are a worldwide problem. While precise statistics are scarce, the UN estimates thousands of women are killed annually in the name of family honor (National Geographic). Other practices that are woven into the sharia debate, such as female genital mutilation, adolescent marriages, polygamy, and gender-biased inheritance rules, elicit as much controversy. There is significant debate over what the Quran sanctions and what practices were pulled from local customs and predate Islam. Those that seek to eliminate or at least modify these controversial practices cite the religious tenet of tajdid. The concept is one of renewal, where Islamic society must be reformed constantly to keep it in its purest form. "With the passage of time and changing circumstances since traditional classical jurisprudence was founded, people's problems have changed and conversely, there must be new thought to address these changes and events," says Dr. Abdul Fatah Idris, head of the comparative jurisprudence department at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Though many scholars share this line of thought, there are those who consider the purest form of Islam to be the one practiced in the seventh century.


Posted by: somebody | Dec 2, 2012 5:49:09 PM | 25

Interesting definition of tyranny. I thought it meant rule by a tyrant.

What are the universal human rights and who chose them?

Is there a universal human right to access to food? To education or literacy? To cures for curable diseases?

Seriously, what are you presenting as the universal human rights and from where do you get that list?

Posted by: Arnold Evans | Dec 2, 2012 6:02:35 PM | 26

Human rights is something the US promotes for others, but not itself, to follow. "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" is an example of this. "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile" is another.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 2, 2012 7:07:05 PM | 27

The Judges' Club, the union which represents the profession nationwide, said it had turned down the judges' traditional role of electoral oversight for the referendum. "We have decided to boycott the supervision of the referendum on the constitution scheduled for December 15, 2012," the club's head Ahmed al-Zind announced.

Spoilsports. Never mind. Paging Jimmy Carter!

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 2, 2012 7:30:51 PM | 28

Arnold;
You say tyranny means rule of a tyrant. That is not quite a definition, that is more like a tautology. Tyranny means the rule of a tyrant and of course a tyrant is one who rules by tyranny!
I am just curious to know your opinion: what is tyranny? How do you define it?
And while at it, is the rule of majority necessarily "democracy" in your opinion?

Posted by: Pirouz_2 | Dec 2, 2012 9:14:24 PM | 29

26 Arnold Evans

Declaration of Universal Human Rights

Article 25.

* (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

27 Yes, and there is a reason the US hates to work with the UN. US citizens and Egyptians deserve better.

Posted by: somebody | Dec 3, 2012 12:12:40 AM | 30

I've never looked up the term tyrant, so I can easily have missed the technical definition. I've always understood it to mean a person who rules by crushing opposition. So tyranny would be rule by crushing opposition, or as a shorthand, just the crushing of political opposition itself.

Tyranny as infringement of universal human rights is a very unsatisfying definition to me among other reasons because the human rights that are supposed to be universal are actually arbitrarily chosen at best, chosen from a biased perspective or even chosen to support an agenda in worse cases. Besides that, tyranny is a much stronger word that I'd necessarily apply to any country that says its laws have a religious basis.

Democracy. I've been thinking about an article about this. I get annoyed when people say democracy is more than just elections. Generally it is Western liberals who then try to say democracy is the entire suite of ideas that comprise Western liberalism.

But if democracy was more than just elections, than when the SCAF dissolved Egypt's parliament, that couldn't have been more than just elections, because that didn't even include respect for the election result. That is less than elections.

So I define democracy as the idea that every person in a society has an equal amount of the fundamental political unit that determines how offices are chosen who will select and execute policy.

For me that's almost it. If everyone - or a wide group of people that arguably reflects the entire population - has one vote, the person who gets the most votes in an electoral contest wins office, the office winner will be the real policy-maker and the electoral contest has resourceful contestants on at least two sides then I consider that democracy.

I also consider democracy - the right to fundamental political equality with others in society - defined above a first order human right. For me, besides the rights to eat, be educated and survive there is no political right more important than the right to influence your society's political direction on an equal basis with others.

Westerners have a bunch of other things they are proud of about their societies. Westerners are proud that their societies are secular - and extend the right to live in a secular society into their definition of democracy. I disagree with that.

Posted by: Arnold Evans | Dec 3, 2012 12:14:43 AM | 31

Arnold, "I get annoyed when people say democracy is more than just."

I guess I would define democracy, nay perhaps the better term is a free society, as a society wherein the rule of law protects the rights of the individual from the power of the state. You can have competitive elections without such rule of law and the US has reached that point. Arrests by the military, indefinite detention, secret trials are now the law of the land in the US.

And yet, you have contested elections. The problem is both candidates are in favor of the above mentioned restrictions on liberty. And if there was a direct vote on these new legal provisions by the public, I'm not at all certain which way the vote would go. I guess a free society can always vote away its liberty.

Anyway, getting back to Egypt, if the constitution provides for such things as freedom of movement, freedom from indefinite arrest, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, etc. then I am very hopeful. However, let us be clear that the United States itself no longer has those things. If the new Egypt does, then it will have made an enormous leap ahead of many western countries that cry democracy left and right while preparing for a future of... tyranny. Which I define as when the individual is at the mercy of the state and cannot count on any law to protect him/her.

Posted by: Lysander | Dec 3, 2012 12:51:33 AM | 32

There is a practical reason for secular government and secular democracy. It keeps the religious majority from going at the throats of the religious minority; and it is clear that the minority in this respect, at a bare minimum, deserves equal protection under the law, and should never be expected to capitulate and renounce their faith, at the whim of the majority. A citizen ought to concede certain duties and behavior according to law to majority decisions, but not all things.

Constitutions are created to define what the limits of majoritarian rule must be, as well as the structure of government a majority can agree upon. This especially applies if the people want a republic, the separation of powers, and the ongoing political compromise that goes with that arrangement.

Any majority that subordinates justice and fairness for all, to its own religious or ideological dogma, has already come out against human rights. And such a group cannot be taken seriously when it speaks of such rights.

Posted by: Copeland | Dec 3, 2012 1:14:29 AM | 33

"Any majority that subordinates justice and fairness for all, to its own religious or ideological dogma, has already come out against human rights. And such a group cannot be taken seriously when it speaks of such rights."

Such as Israel and the USA. Good point.

Posted by: вот так | Dec 3, 2012 1:29:07 AM | 34

I agree with Lysander in terms of what the United States has lost, which represents a giant backward leap for American democracy and a ravaging of the rule of law, and an equal leap backward for decency and accountability of public servants. People get the exact amount of injustice they are willing to put up with, which I believe is what Frederick Douglass said.

It's nothing less than a disgrace that the United States, which was conceived as an ambitious experiment in secular democracy, now has leaders who are willing to destroy secular governments in other lands, and to employ or partner with religious extremists who it has declared to be enemies of the US, if that's what it takes to get the job done. We are truly in the hands of people who are willing to defile the country our founders created.

Posted by: Copeland | Dec 3, 2012 1:41:44 AM | 35

Why are we wasting time trying decipher the intricacies of Egyptian politics when there seems to no one here who has much insight. Article this or that in the proposed constitution makes absolutely no sense to me nor do I suspect to anyone else posting here. This is an internal Egyptian political dynamic that all we can do is watch and see what happens.

I mention this because there seems to be something happening in Syria that is really significant. The current regime seems to be in the process of being defeated by the militias made up of the extreme Sunni militias backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Western imperial powers (US, Britain and France). This sounds like a major story. Or am I being deceived by our major news outlets. Big questions here?

Posted by: ToivoS | Dec 3, 2012 3:39:42 AM | 36

@ ToivoS,

LINK

Posted by: Daniel Rich | Dec 3, 2012 6:08:40 AM | 37

@Arnold Has Morsi really closed more tunnels than Mubarak?

According to Hamas, yes.

Posted by: b | Dec 3, 2012 10:14:56 AM | 38

@TovioS - The current regime seems to be in the process of being defeated

Far from it. There is lot made up in the media especially about the numbers of fighters and this or that small local action. From what I read as facts I do not get the impression that the Syrian government is going to be defeated. It concentrates its efforts on its assets as it expects a longer but slow fight. That seems to make sense to me.

Posted by: b | Dec 3, 2012 10:24:26 AM | 39

See also:

Militarization of Syrian conflict ‘in full swing’ – deputy FM

http://rt.com/politics/militarization-syria-weapons-conflict-146/

Posted by: вот так | Dec 3, 2012 10:49:36 AM | 40

Tunnel destruction was linked by some to a new Free-Trade Zone, but . . .

ahram, Oct 1
No free-trade zone with Gaza' says Egypt presidency

Presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali said on Monday that Egypt has no intention of establishing a free-trade zone with the Gaza Strip.

"This was just an idea proposed by the media, and was never looked into or discussed officially," added Ali during a press conference held at the presidential palace.

On Thursday deputy head of Hamas Mostafa Abu-Marzouk had told Ahram Online that Egypt has not given up on the idea of establishing a free-trade zone with Gaza. Marzouk also added that it was an Egyptian idea in the first place.

The free-trade zone would offer an alternative to the informal trade through illegal tunnels between the two countries. The tunnels have been prospering since the borders were tightly sealed to all commercial traffic in 2006.

Following the militant attack that killed 16 Egyptian border guards by the Israel-Egypt border on 5 August, a crackdown was initiated by Egyptian authorities on the tunnels.

photo: Egyptian army with heavy machinery used to destroy tunnels linking Egypt and the Gaza (Photo: Reuters)

During the press conference Ali refused to comment on current demonstrations held by Palestinians to protest the crackdown on the tunnels, commenting only that: "We will not allow any violations on Egypt's sovereignty from whomever."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 3, 2012 11:27:47 AM | 41

Two considerations to keep in mind when reading scary Syria news:
1. The London-based anti-Syria propagandists control the "news" (I've detailed this)
2. There is no connection, nor will there be, between the dominant anti-Syria forces -- the jihadist AQ-linked (probably) al-Nusrah Front -- and the "recognized" Doha-formed political opposition group

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 3, 2012 11:31:45 AM | 42

I am unable to get my comment posted on the site. Anyone able to suggest some way to fix this problem?

Posted by: FB Ali | Dec 3, 2012 11:52:30 AM | 43

I think most of the discussion in the Western media (and on blogs) of developments in Egypt has been about peripheral issues, and thus has missed the real underlying story. That has to do with the MB seeking to establish itself as the ruling party in the country.

The MB is an organization that has survived for decades under a hostile government in Egypt. It is thus a seasoned, disciplined movement, unlike the usual concept of a political party. The media focus on a "power grab" by Mursi ignores the fact that he is an MB operative, and is thus working to further the party's aims, not his own. All his recent moves are in this behalf.

The MB's plan appears to be to have the constitution ratified, and then win the next elections, when held. This will legitimize their rule, and enable them to dismantle the old power structures. I do not think they want to establish a dictatorship of any kind, but they do believe (probably rightly) that they represent the majority of the people and are thus entitled to govern. They will give other parties and political movements room to function but not to obstruct their agenda.

As political Islamists their main goal is not to establish a Sharia state, but rather to make Egypt a powerful state that works to further 'political' Islam. They appear to recognize that attempts to impose too much sharia will hinder them in pursuing their principal aim; hence the largely symbolic adherence to sharia in the constitution, a pattern likely to be repeated in the laws they will make later. They will introduce only as much of sharia as will satisfy their base without creating too much opposition among others.

The success of their current moves depends on the actions of the military. I believe that the military will do nothing, and will thus enable them to move forward. Mainly because the new top military leadership is sympathetic to their aims, and so is a large part of the rank-and-file -- and the top brass know that. (The MB has also been careful to give some carrots to the military in the new constitution).

The media here has been misled by the initial demonstrations against Mursi's moves. What is not recognized is that these were mainly in the larger cities whereas the MB's main strength lies elsewhere (in smaller towns and rural areas). When the MB chose to mobilize this base they showed that they could easily dwarf the urban protests in size.

It is, of course, unfortunate that there exists this divide. The urban educated youth possess the biggest potential for the future of the country, but by and large they don't adhere to the MB. The latter will have to find some way to bridge this gap (through economic development rather than ideological conversion) otherwise it will find itself becoming an increasingly repressive regime. That would undermine Egypt's future, as well as the MB's own goals.

As for the MB's relations with the US and Israel, they are likely to continue to be flexible (even pliant, where essential) until they are firmly established in power. Then they are likely to start moving on their own policy.

Posted by: FB Ali | Dec 3, 2012 11:54:30 AM | 44

Since my last one-line post went through OK, it may have something to do with size (even though there are some pretty long posts up here). If you will bear with me, I will try posting it in parts. Here is Part I:

I think most of the discussion in the Western media (and on blogs) of developments in Egypt has been about peripheral issues, and thus has missed the real underlying story. That has to do with the MB seeking to establish itself as the ruling party in the country.

The MB is an organization that has survived for decades under a hostile government in Egypt. It is thus a seasoned, disciplined movement, unlike the usual concept of a political party. The media focus on a "power grab" by Mursi ignores the fact that he is an MB operative, and is thus working to further the party's aims, not his own. All his recent moves are in this behalf.

The MB's plan appears to be to have the constitution ratified, and then win the next elections, when held. This will legitimize their rule, and enable them to dismantle the old power structures. I do not think they want to establish a dictatorship of any kind, but they do believe (probably rightly) that they represent the majority of the people and are thus entitled to govern. They will give other parties and political movements room to function but not to obstruct their agenda.

Posted by: FB Ali | Dec 3, 2012 12:10:07 PM | 45

Part II:

As political Islamists their main goal is not to establish a Sharia state, but rather to make Egypt a powerful state that works to further 'political' Islam. They appear to recognize that attempts to impose too much sharia will hinder them in pursuing their principal aim; hence the largely symbolic adherence to sharia in the constitution, a pattern likely to be repeated in the laws they will make later. They will introduce only as much of sharia as will satisfy their base without creating too much opposition among others.

The success of their current moves depends on the actions of the military. I believe that the military will do nothing, and will thus enable them to move forward. Mainly because the new top military leadership is sympathetic to their aims, and so is a large part of the rank-and-file -- and the top brass know that. (The MB has also been careful to give some carrots to the military in the new constitution).

The media here has been misled by the initial demonstrations against Mursi's moves. What is not recognized is that these were mainly in the larger cities whereas the MB's main strength lies elsewhere (in smaller towns and rural areas). When the MB chose to mobilize this base they showed that they could easily dwarf the urban protests in size.

It is, of course, unfortunate that there exists this divide. The urban educated youth possess the biggest potential for the future of the country, but by and large they don't adhere to the MB. The latter will have to find some way to bridge this gap (through economic development rather than ideological conversion) otherwise it will find itself becoming an increasingly repressive regime. That would undermine Egypt's future, as well as the MB's own goals.

As for the MB's relations with the US and Israel, they are likely to continue to be flexible (even pliant, where essential) until they are firmly established in power. Then they are likely to start moving on their own policy.

Posted by: FB Ali | Dec 3, 2012 12:11:35 PM | 46

From today Monday's news on Egypt on the Constitution referendum. From AFP:

Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council, representing Egypt's most senior judges, announced that judges and judicial officers would overseee the public voting in the December 15 referendum across the country.... In reaction a spokesman for president Morsi said "this means, it's over."AFP

As noted by Don Bacon at #28, the Judges Club of Egypt under its leader Judge Ahmed Al-Zend yesterday called for a boycott of the referendum monitoring. But today:

The former leader of the Judges Club, Judge Zakareya Abdel-Aziz, argued that it was unlikely that judges would refuse to supervise the referendum. AHRAM

From Al-Ahram:

Judge Mohamed Awad heads the Alexandria Appeal Court and is a member of the Judges for Egypt reform movement. He expected that around 90 per cent of Egypt's judges will take part in monitoring the upcoming constitutional referendum on 15 December. He also opined that judges who were calling for a boycott of the monitoring of the referendum were "interfering in executive matters" which is "unacceptable" and "an offence to the judiciary". AHRAM

Posted by: Parviziyi | Dec 3, 2012 1:34:52 PM | 47

:-)) from your first Ahram link Parviziyi - end of text

For the time being, however, it remains unclear exactly how the referendum, set to take place between 8-10 December for Egyptians living abroad and on 15 December in Egypt, will be run as so many judges are boycotting.

Posted by: somebody | Dec 3, 2012 2:48:07 PM | 48

The referendum will take place irregardless of what judges do. It looks like good weather on December 15th, but I do worry about the Egyptians living abroad. (just kidding)

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 3, 2012 2:59:57 PM | 49

Arnold;
There are a few different points that I would like to make and getting them into a unified single piece will take some time.
Unfortunately the daily jargon of errands limits my time, so I will try to mention a few as they come to my mind. I am sure I will forget some of the points I want to talk about.

I don't see today's Egypt similar to the Iran of 2009, I see it similar to the Iran of 1979 (and there is a HUGE difference between the Iran of 1979 and Iran of 2009).

True, there are many differences in between but then again there are many differences when making such comparisons between any two countries. No two countries are exactly the same: different neighbouring countries, different -and yet in many respects similar- histories, cultural differences, etc. etc.

So what's the alarming similarity between Iran of 1979 and todays Egypt?

In Iran in 1979, a revolution took place where all strata of the society came to the streets and supported the revolution. Meaning that revolution had the active support of all of the opposition. What happened next was that one specific group started to eliminate the rest of the opposition and by 'the rest of opposition' what I mean is EVERY BODY else except the members of that particular gang.

In the course of 3 years they managed to physically eliminate almost everyone who blonged to a different group other than the Islamic republic party. Of course this process of 'power grab' did not happen over night. As I said before it took place in the course of 3 years in a step by step manner. By 1983, there was pretty much no opposition at all and the only legally active group was the Islamic Republic Party and even the slightest of opposition would be brutally suppressed. If the readers of this site would like some sort of supporting testimony to what I say they can search for Ahmadinejad's debate with Mousavi and his reference to the practices of IRI government at the time of Mr. Mousavi.

Now when this process of 'elimination of the opposition' was happening did such actions not have the support of the majority of the poppulation? That is a very good question. In fact it was cases such as this which made me ask you if democracy was just about the vote of majority or not. It is really not easy to answer the previous question. My personal opinion is that at least at the beginning it did have the majority's support. But does that make the execution of thousands of people -some of them as young as 19, some of them being poets and university students- any less tyrannical?

Interestingly this particular group which eliminated every single group of opposition was the very same group which got into under the table deals with the Reagan administration through people such as Michael Ledeen. And Israel was the middle man to bring the American weaponry to Iran!!

You very rightly worry about the vote of those people who elected the MPs in Egypt having been thrown into garbage by the remnants of the Mubarak regime. Indeed there is nothing tolerable about dissolution of a recently elected parliament. But how about the right of the ~40% of Egyptians to have a candidate of their choice so that they can vote for them (turnout of the parliamentary elections in egypt was 59% and in the two rounds of presidential elections it was 46% and 52%)? What happened to their candidate of choice? Do people have to chose between Shafiq and Morsy? What sort of a democracy is this?

This is extremely important especially considering the fact that these were the first elections after a revolution which brought a 40 YO dictatorship to an end: just to give people a perspective the first referendum in Iran in 1979 had a participation of over 20 million people (Iran at the time had a population of ~35 million).
Also another important point that I would like to make regarding "elections" is something the Americans are very familiar with:
The role that capital plays in a successful campaign and in having access to media. It is being said -and I absolutely agree with it- that in the US (but I would extend this to all capitalist countries) money buys election success. Now how would Qatari money in support of MB campaign -whose lidership have some ultra rich multi milioner members in a country where 40% of society lives with under $2/day- play in the electoral success of MB?

I have already written too much. I am a bit busy at moment and besides, I don't really want to give you and the readers on this site more headache than I already have with my long message so I stop here.

Posted by: Pirouz_2 | Dec 3, 2012 4:33:12 PM | 50

I agree that democracy alone does not make a just society. Elections alone also do not make a just society.

What annoys me with Western liberals (not the people I'm responding to now) is that if you say a just society is more than elections, then it is clear that you have an idea of what is justice and another person who has a different idea and ultimately if you don't agree, you can present your ideas to an electorate and vote it out.

Westerners want to skip presenting their ideas and voting - and just claim their idea of what is just should prevail more or less because they're Western. So instead of saying justice is more than just elections, which is true, they say "democracy" is more than elections, which is mostly false.

Democracy is a component of justice, maybe, but democracy is a relatively graceful and non-violent way to measure and decide between conflicting ideas. Secularism is one of the ideas that can compete, but it is not a component of democracy itself.

That does raise the question of available resources. I'd like to see all elections everywhere publicly financed so ideas could compete on an even footing. A perfect or a better democracy would not inherently advantage a side with whose supporters are richer. But we're veering way off the topic of Egypt to raise that point.

About Egypt later turning into a country that physically liquidates political opposition, what I would agree would be a tyranny, Egypt has been a tyranny for 30 years in the other direction. I don't trust the army that 24 months ago was implementing a tyranny more than I trust the voters of Egypt to avoid that.

Of course, the US supported the Mubarak tyranny then and today supports tyrannies in its colonies of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and others. But nobody here would disagree with that.

I want to see Egypt avoid tyranny. Between Iran after 1979 and Egypt after 1980, despite much much more difficult external circumstances, Iran has spent less time in tyranny than Egypt. The first step in avoiding tyranny is respecting election results though.

Posted by: Arnold Evans | Dec 3, 2012 5:30:12 PM | 51

good summary on why Egyptians are protesting in force now

In the absence of an elected legislature, it was left to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces -- the consortium of generals who ruled Egypt for the 18 months following former leader Hosni Mubarak's overthrow -- to counteract the presidency. But the Egyptian people and the generals had grown weary of each other. Word in Cairo was that the septuagenarian minister of defense, Muhammad Hussein Tantawi, wanted a way out, a "safe exit" in which he could live out his days free of the indignities visited upon his old boss, who bounced between prison and infirmary.

A bargain was worked out. The president clawed back the council's powers and sent the minister of defense and the armed forces chief of staff into cossetted retirement (while naming them presidential advisers). The political landscape now lay prostrate before him.

Except for the judiciary, and particularly the SCC. To Morsy, the 17 men (and one woman) who make up that body constitute a defiant remnant of the Mubarak order. That a clash was inevitable was apparent from Morsy's first moments in office, when his inauguration was delayed for several hours over his reluctance to be sworn in before the outgoing head of the court.

When the president decreed that the dissolved parliament should return to work, the judges shut him down. Later, he tried to fire Egypt's attorney general, a Mubarak appointee. Again, he was told that this was outside his ken. Rumors swirled that the SCC was planning to dissolve the second constituent assembly; others reported that a court was about to rule the Muslim Brotherhood itself illegal.

Morsy and his men point to these things and argue that he was forced to take action. But what's remarkable is what the president didn't do. For all of his complaining about SCC's dissolution of parliament's lower house, and for all the damage that the decision did to Egypt's democratic transition, the president has indicated that he will uphold it.

Essam el-Erian, deputy chairman of the Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, has publicly called on Morsy to reinstate the parliament, but a presidential spokesman has said that there are no plans to do so.

The president's reluctance to bring back the parliament further reinforces the impression that his main aim is to expand the powers of his office, which he probably believes is better able to put Egypt right than a raucous legislature packed with unreliable Salafists and a fractious "liberal" wing.

Posted by: somebody | Dec 5, 2012 12:48:33 AM | 52

Really hefty street fights last night in Cairo, shots fired: video 1, video 2

Posted by: b | Dec 6, 2012 6:59:52 AM | 53

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