Monday, June 25, 2012

Anguish at Shafiq loss

While Morsy supporters celebrated their candidates win, many Shafiq supporters were despondent, depressed, or even hysterical at his loss.

Shafiq supporters in disbelief after election loss.

Shafiq supporters devastated by loss.

My office this morning was like a morgue. My coworkers, Christian and Muslim alike, were miserable, scared, and uncertain. I tried to comfort them, telling them now is the time for activism, not the time to lose faith.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Morsy wins. What Now?

Photo Credit, Al Jazeera.

Press conference melts down, Al Jazeera cuts away to jubilant crowds in Tahrir. People flooding into Tahrir.

I guess this means the election was free and fair at some level, given that the SCAF would have preferred Shafiq.

Morsy wins with 51.73% of vote. 

At 5:10 p.m. 

Please note that nearly half of the people who voted supported Shafiq, in part because he is secular. Morsy has quite a task ahead of him. It was a very narrow victory. There is going to be a large opposition to Morsy rule. Also, many ballots were invalidated. Farouk Sultan said as many as 800,000 people invalidated ballots.

Shafiq supporters in tears. Photo credit, Al Jazeera.
The next task? The constitution. The test of whether Morsy is a true revolutionary is whether he establishes a  Constituent Assembly that is truly representative of the Egyptian people. Another test will be how people are in fact chosen for that Constituent Assembly. The process of selection, as I have said repeatedly, is of the utmost importance.

5:16 p.m. Tahrir is going absolutely wild. People are chanting "The Revolution Continues."

5:18 p.m. People in Tahrir are chanting "Down with military rule." 

The Tahrir protest/celebration is likely to stay in as a sit in against military rule.

6:37 p.m. Here in El Rehab, some young men are walking through the courtyards, drumming, shaking their tambourines, and chanting in a jolly way. The children in the apartment complexes, who are all down playing in the yard, after a day of being cooped up inside by worried parents, are dancing and having fun. Of course, the children, have no idea what is going on. Cars are honking their horns. Is all this festivity a sign that the old, culturally rich, exciting, interesting Egypt is back? Perhaps it is a good omen for happy times ahead.

From twitter

Judging by celebrations downtown, egypt is more likely to turn into Ibiza than iran


Egyptian Presidential Election Results? Pending!

It is 3:15 p.m.

The announcement of the Egyptian presidential election results has been delayed. We were expecting the information at 3:00 p.m. The results have been delayed by 30 minutes.

It is incredibly hot today. The American University in Cairo dismissed the university. The last bus was at 1:00. A colleague who is quite reasonable and calm insisted that I go home.

I went to the metro grocery, apparently a lot of people had the same idea. The place was completely packed.

Rumors are flying on twitter. Will there be a salvation government? Will Baradei become Prime Minister (Cool! I would love that!)

Talks over proposed salvation government

Tune in to the next episode of "As Tahrir Turns"

Friday, June 22, 2012

Waiting with Baited Breath for Egyptian Presidential Election Results

جمعة «عودة الشرعية» بميدان التحرير
Photo Credit. Ahmed Al Masry. Thousands of protesters gather in Tahrir Square to participate in Friday of "Rejecting Coup d'etat", Cairo, 22 June 2012, against Constitutional Declaration supplement issued by SCAF.

Dear readers

For those of you in Egypt, I know nothing that you do not know. Everyone is wondering who the presidential victor will be, Morsy or Shafiq?

Breaking News: SCAF and MB may be in negotiations    (11:41 p.m., Friday, Cairo time)

I was at a conference on defense spending and its distortions of various world economies today. It was held at the AUC in Moataz Al Alfi hall. The entire day, we kept checking in with each other, "have you heard anything?"

I asked my boss, whom I think is very thoughtful in these matters. I said to her, "does it really matter if Egypt elects a president, given that Parliament has been dismissed?" She said that indeed, it matters deeply. People need to have a sense that the process will be carried through. Also, if Parliament is dismissed, the presidency would arguably be the democratic bulwark in the country.

I went to Maadi yesterday to see my good friend from the UNDP who is monitoring the elections.   She focused on the fact that Egypt is in a learning process regarding democracy. The highway from Downtown to New Cairo is completely plastered with giant billboards for both the Presidential candidates, right next to each other in many cases. This picture gives you a sense.

Photo credit Reuters. Morsy signs are in Red, Shafiq signs are blue.

If you would like a good background piece to catch up on the situation check out the Carnegie Endowment for International Piece.

The Egyptian Political System in Dissaray by Nathan J. Brown. 

People are worried that violence could break out if one side or the other disputes the results.

I love this photo published in the Egyptian Independent today. It shows a former pasha, with protesters sitting on his statue, Morsy posters plastered everywhere. There is the spire of a mosque on the left hand side, and a glimpse of the heart of high class Cairo, the Semiramis Intercontinental, directly opposite the US Embassy on the right hand side of the photo.

Tahrir square the 22th of June
Photo Credit Virginie Nguyen, Egypt Independent.

For non-Egyptian readers, some selections from today's press.

Morsy Urges Fast Election Results

Shafiq Claims Victory in Egyptian Presidential Runoff

Egyptian Media warns of Massacre of the Century

Election's Political Context Flawed, Say Monitors. 

Mursi, Shafiq campaigns both claim victory in Egyptian presidential race

Hoping for the best, most democratic outcome. ~WMB

Monday, June 18, 2012

Democracy under assault after Egyptian election

Egyptian soldiers near Tahrir in February 2011. Photo Credit Al Ahram.
Let me begin my post by telling you the word on the street, and then, I will update you on the "official news."

First of all, a completely non-scientific sample of people in my life produced the following election results. My office manager, who is actually a very observant Muslim, said that "at least if Shafiq is elected, we will have a civilized country, not a religious one." I think she meant civilian, or secular, but point well taken. My taxi driver had no idea what the dismissal of parliament meant, but was very gung ho about Shafiq. My favorite tour operator, who is very literate in both English and Arabic, and quite politically savvy chose Morsi, as the more revolutionarily appropriate choice.

Anyway, what I have heard this morning in New Cairo from a fellow law professor and a colleague at the UN is that Morsi has won, unofficially. That being said, the SCAF has also issued a decree strictly limiting the powers of the presidency. They also told me that the SCAF will appoint the Constituent Assembly, draft a constitution in three months, and then additional parliamentary elections will be held. Further, there is buzz that the SCAF will make all provisions in the Constitution appealable to the Supreme Constitutional Court. I have also heard that the military now has the power to arrest civilians for assembling in public, and other infractions.

Brief thoughts. If Morsy won, then the election was more or less free and fair, because the SCAF wanted Shafiq, one of their own. Then again, what is the point of having a President in the absence of a parliament. It is also yet to be seen if the president will actually be allowed to assume power. Further, I am not a fan of this rushed constitutional process. I also do not think that you can write a constitution from the top down. It must be a consensus process which is widely accepted by the populace. This cannot be attained if the SCAF appoints the members it desires with no feedback from Parliament or other major social organizations. Finally, as I have noted in previous posts, the courts are completely unreconstructed from before the Revolution. They are all Mubarak appointees. The Supreme Constitutional Court members were all picked by the former regime, which feels a lot like the current regime today. It is lunacy to give the Court the power to evaluate which clauses it approves. This is legally problematic at multiple levels. It will take me time to digest that.

Okay, so now, what does the paper say? Al Masry Al Youm says that according to their count (unofficial) Morsy wins with 51.3 percent of the vote. The news also confirms the expansion of military powers. Amended Article 60 gives the military to appoint the Constituent Assembly if the CA developed by the parliament does not fulfil its role.

Check this out.

The SCAF, the president, the prime minister, the Supreme Judicial Council, or one-fifth of the Constituent Assembly have the right to contest any clause issued by the Constituent Assembly if “it is in opposition to the goals of the revolution or its basic principles… or the common principles of Egypt’s past constitutions.”

The assembly would have to revisit the contested clause or clauses within 15 days, and if the contention holds the Supreme Constitutional Court should have the final word.

What?? So, the Supreme Constitutional Court gets to rule on the constitutionality of the Constitution? Very puzzling.
According to Al Ahram, which is nominally state controlled, Morsi fans are already celebrating his election.  AUC Professor, former MP, and liberal political figure Amr Hamzawy laments the restrictions on the newly elected president's powers.
Here is the text of the SCAF amendments (Made by decree) to the constitutional document. Given the frequency with the SCAF rules by decree, the document is beginning to look like a list of military orders.   

So what is the score card? Parliament: mainly Islamist, but some secular forces, few regime forces, only democratically elected institution in Egypt. Status. Dissolved, technically, but impressively defiant. . Judiciary: strong hold of Mubarak Regime appointees. Status. Very powerful. SCAF: the military, secular, but corrupt with strong ties to Mubarak Regime. Status: Currently holds executive and legislative power. President: election results not yet finalized, but Islamist. Status: unclear if president will really be able to be sworn in. 

Here is the New York Times take. The bottom line is that a power struggle is emerging between those who want a civilian state and those who want a military state. Within the coalition of those who do not want a military state, there is a conflict between Islamists and secularists. The Islamists and secularists will have to find an accommodation if they wish to work together against the old forces of Mubarak, now embodied in the SCAF. That is not going to be an easy pill to swallow, but as always, I am cautiously optimistic.   


Saturday, June 16, 2012

An Eerily Quiet Election Day in Egypt

Second round of Presidential elections. Photo Credit Virginie Nguyen, Al Masry al Youm.

The first day of presidential elections in Egypt has been extremely quiet. We kept everyone indoors today, out of worry for our safety, but it was one of the quietest days I have ever experienced in Cairo. I noticed that the muezzin gave a particularly elegant, and flowery call this afternoon in the call to prayer, but that was the only unusual item of the day.

After so many elections, two for the peoples assembly, two for the shura, and now two for the President, citizens are certainly facing election fatigue. Furthermore, Thursday's decision has invalidated all the hard work that went into electing the only democratic body in Egypt, the parliament.

The military (the SCAF) is in full control of the government, and everyone is in shock. The SCAF has full legislative powers until parliament is reelected. If Shafiq wins the presidency, the SCAF will hold both legislative and executive powers. The judiciary was never reformed, so represents part of the Mubarak regime. Jaadaliya reports that court rulings represent a blow to civilian forces.

 The euphoria that reigned a year ago after the revolution has been replaced by a kind of despair. But activists are not giving up. They continue to organize. They continue to build their party, and strengthen their ground and grassroots contacts. Their faith is inspiring, and the revolution is still alive.

Vote turnout has been extremely low.  Two different projects are afoot, one to boycott the elections, and one to turn in invalidated ballots. Activists plan vote nullification campaign.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Confusion after court rulings in Egypt

Tahrir square

Last night I was meeting with a friend who is active in a major secular party in Egypt. There was some confusion about the future of the party. Yesterday's court ruling invalidated all the seats won by independents in parliament: approximately 1/3 of the seats. As a result, the parliament is effectively disbanded, because there are not enough people in parliament to hold sessions.

Hundreds in Tahrir Protest against Supreme Court rulings.

I cannot verify this, but my friend said that even if Shafiq wins, if the Parliament is disbanded, there will be no one to swear him in. Therefore, whoever wins the presidential election may not actually be in power until the parliament is reconstituted.

Egypt's high court calls for dissolution of Parliament.

I was at the Marriot in Zamalek for a lecture on "The Arab Awakening: One Year On." The lecture was held by the AUC. After the lecture, I spoke with my friend on the outdoor patio, so that he could smoke a cigarette. Who did we run into but Amr Hamzawy, my former colleague at the PPAD. He was with his beautiful wife, Basma. He looked a little stressed, because he is one of the independents who have now lost their seats. But, he was optimistic.

Blow to Transition as Court invalidates Parliament.

Many at the conference I attended last night, referred to the events as a "coup." Further, my friend suggested that the courts are not independent, and are actually controlled by the SCAF. Indeed, the courts have been operating with little or no reform since the Revolution.

Parliament's Dissolution Could Postpone Presidential Election.

Ironically, I had a girl's lunch at one thirty, and one of my colleagues who works at the UNDP told us that one third of parliament would be dismissed, and that Shafiq would be allowed to run. By two thirty, her predictions were confirmed. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A worrying weekend as the Egyptian presidential election approaches

I am here in Cairo for June. Here in Cairo, things are a bit tense. My students are concerned about me. They worry that I do not have enough family to make staying in Cairo during the upcoming election safe. No matter, I have various colleagues, and we live in Rehab, which is likely the safest place in the greater metropolitan area.

Multiple political matters remain up in the air. First, who will participate in the Constituent Assembly, which is supposed to write Egypt's new constitution, is a matter of great contention. The constituent assembly is supposed to be formed of 100 people representing various components of Egyptian society. Yet, its composition has drawn enormous criticism from secular and liberal forces, including ElBaradei. Second, the Supreme Constitutional Court could disband parliament over the legality of the voting in the recent parliamentary elections. Third, this Saturday and Sunday a presidential runoff is scheduled between Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, and the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsy. Shafiq may yet be disqualified under the Political Isolation Law. The Supreme Constitutional Court may declare the law illegal. Or, the court may choose not to hear the case.  However, the Court is scheduled to hear the case on June 14, 2012, only two days before the scheduled runoff.

If Shafiq is elected, and then disqualified, it could throw political matters--and the country-- into turmoil.

Shafiq is clearly the SCAF's preferred candidate, and his disqualification would loosen their grip on power. Also, the proximity of a potential court decision to the runoff is nerve-wracking. On the way home on the bus, everyone was making nervous jokes about our safety. One of my students says he is going to Ain Sokhna for the election. We asked him why he thinks Ain Sokhna is safer? He said, it is not safer, but at least it will be relaxing and fun. Good point.