On June 14th, when the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt ruled that the first parliamentary elections since the revolution were unconstitutional, it reminded Egyptians that for all they had gained during the turbulent months of struggle against Mubarak and his hold-outs could be undone in one swift motion. Regardless of the fact that the decision by the Supreme Court was reversed three days later by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) (Egypt’s “transitional” government) the sour taste remained in Egyptians’ mouths.
The basis of the ruling was that the elections had been unconstitutional because some districts had voted on a first-past-the-post system, and others on a proportional system. As a result, one-third of elected members were deemed illegitimate. The Court also ruled that the decision to bar former members of the Mubarak government was not “based on objective grounds” and violated the principle of equality, and as such should be reversed.
The reasons for the ruling can be seen plainly when analyzed further. All members of the Constitutional Court were appointed by Mubarak, all had close relations to the military, and would have too much to lose in case of a Muslim Brotherhood parliament/presidency joint government.
The SCAF also decided it had too much to lose and so, on the 18th, a day after reversing the ruling by the Supreme Court, it released a decree in which it gives itself near total autonomy in military matters, veto power on the new constitution, and the power to write laws and the budget. In short, whatever happens, the military will still hold great power on its hands.
Mind you, all this is happening as Egyptians wait for the results of the presidential election run-off, pitting Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohamed Morsi, and former Mubarak Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik. Both sides have declared themselves as winners, both have organized massive rallies to show the size of their support, and both will not accept defeat. To say that the tension in the country is palpable would be a gross understatement; one could cut it with a knife.
Either way Egyptians will be severely disappointed. On one hand they can choose Morsi, a pawn of the Muslim Brotherhood, a man who has called for the implementation of Islamic Law into society, saying it is the best way for Egypt to go. On the other side stands Shafik, who is a relic of the Mubarak regime and would signify the complete failure of the revolution.
Both sides have their base which supports them regardless. Islamists on one side, the military on the other. But in the middle stand regular Egyptians, people who want neither a Theocracy or to go back to pre-2011 regime. Unfortunately, they have no choice but those two.
More from the region
- Syria’s conflict is starting to spill over into Lebanon, where there have been clashes between pro-Syrian forces and pro-independence Lebanese. The situation in Lebanon goes back to the times of the French mandate of Syria, in which Lebanon was a province. France created Lebanon as an independent state for the Christian majority in the region. Some Syrians – and a few Lebanese (i.e.: Hezbollah) – have never accepted the division and call for Lebanon to be reinstated into Syria. The Syrian Civil War has created another reason for old wounds to come to the fore.
- Still on the subject of Syria: This has been one more pathetic display by the United Nations in international crises. From the naïve belief that the “Annan Plan” would be a meaningful resolution to the conflict, to the inability to even condemn the action of Assad’s government, to the feeble attempt to send a peace mission to the conflict areas, pulling them back because of “increased violence.” Sometimes I wonder if the UN would like to send peace missions only to conflict-free areas, but I digress.
- Hamas is up to its old tricks again. After launching a barrage of rockets into Israel over the night of June 19th, they quickly proceeded to release a public – read: internationally published – call for a ceasefire. Israel, of course, did not care for the request and proceeded to bombard rocket launching sites in the Gaza strip. It is actions like this that have many Palestinians in the West Bank calling for the removal of the Islamic regime in the tiny enclave as the first true step towards peace between the two sides.
- Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was pronounced dead on June16th. He is the second Crown Prince to die within the calendar year. Although the line of succession is not a problem – there are dozens of brothers waiting to succeed each other – it does raise a question as to Nayef’s other post, that of Interior Minister. The Crown Prince held the post since 1975, and within this time garnered the reputation of an extremely conservative man, even by the Kingdom’s standards. His death may lead to a more modern-facing minister. However, I wouldn’t hold your breath. But it will be interesting to see who succeeds him.