Friday, April 27, 2012

Egyptian Presidential Election, Protests, and the Politics of Drafting the New Constitution

An Egyptian girl street vendor displays dairy products for sale under electoral posters in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, April 23, 2012
Well folks, it is a busy news day in Egypt!

There is a big protest in Tahrir. It was called by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis. I like the concept, which is demanding a handover of power to civilians. I am less sanguine about the people who called it. The Free Front for Peaceful Change has refused to participate, saying the Islamists are hijacking the protests after abandoning the streets for months.

A Constituent Assembly to write Egypt's new constitution is being put together. A mediation committee has been established to end the impasse over the Assembly's make up, according to the Egypt Independent. So far, the parties in the mediation have agreed to grant 15 seats to the FJP ( Muslim Brotherhood) 7 seats to the Nour party (Salafis), and 4 to the Wafd party (center secular) out of the 40 seats to be occupied by political parties. If those numbers are correct, 26 seats have been chosen, leaving 14 to be filled by other political parties. It is not clear what algorithm has been used to date to fill the seats. A court ruling in March determined that the Constituent Assembly had to be reformed due to its lack of diversity. As someone outside this mediation, my concern is that it is not clear whether women, bedouins, Christians, leftists, secular persons, or new parties that are not Islamists are on this Assembly. There is a lot at stake here. If the new Egyptian Constitution is not well written, then it will be very difficult for Egypt to emerge into a full-fledged democracy. Check out an article that gives some insight into this process.

With regard to the Presidential election, the National Association for Change is attempting to agree on a single revolutionary candidate. Leftist lawyer, Khaled Ali is a human rights advocate who has been on the approved list of candidates. He has said he will waive his candidacy if a consensus candidate is chosen. The National Association for Change has stated that they support the following principals: the civilian democratic nature of the state, the guarantee of full citizenship rights without discrimination on the basis of religion, race or gender. The Association also said these ideas need to be included in the constitution. If the candidates fail to agree among themselves, a "committee of wise men" will be put together to make a binding choice, if the candidates fail to agree. On the gender equality piece, I hope a woman is on the committee.

With regard to the Mubarak approved choice of presidential candidates, Ahmed Shafiq, Hosni Mubarka's last prime minister , says he has the military and political experience to lead Egypt into a new democratic era. Huuhhh? I thought you were with the guy we fired last January 25th, Ahmed? He was disqualified by the Political Isolation Law, which banned former Mubarak officials, then 48 hours later, the Presidential Election Commission reinstated him. Shafiq has close military ties, and is certainly someone the SCAF (the ruling military junta) knows well, and would be comfortable with.

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