Seven Ways Egypt's Morsi Can Correct Revolutionary Course
Was the Egyptian revolution legal? When millions of Egyptians took to the streets to oust former President Hosni Mubarak, was this a constitutional act? From a legal point of view, wasn't Mubarak a legitimately elected president when the revolution began?
About This Article
After Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s abortive attempt to fire Cairo’s general prosecutor, novelist and journalist Alaa al-Aswany examines how Morsi has failed the revolutionary groups who helped put him in power.Publisher: As-Safir (Lebanon)
The President Who Serves Two Masters
Author: Alaa Al-Aswany
First Published: October 16, 2012
Translated by: Sami-Joe Abboud and Sahar Ghoussoub
Categories : Syria
Everything that happened in the Egyptian revolution was illegal. Fundamentally, the revolution was against Mubarak's fraudulent elections, unjust laws and corrupt constitution. If Mubarak’s constitution had expressed the will of the people, or if Mubarak’s laws had been fair, Egyptians would not have started a revolution.
Revolutions always aim at toppling oppressive regimes, including their laws and constitutions. Power is then transferred to the revolting people to cleanse the state — under constitutional legality — from the corrupt. Then, a constituent assembly is elected and tasked with writing a new constitution that reflects the goals of the revolution.
Moreover, a set of new laws are enacted in order to bring about the justice sought by the revolution.
This is what all revolutions have done throughout human history. However, the Egyptian revolution has succeeded in unseating Mubarak, but it has not yet managed to topple Mubarak's regime.
The military council agreed with the Muslim Brotherhood to retain the old regime. Instead of canceling the old constitution, the same constitutional amendments that Mubarak suggested were advanced. The military council appointed a committee tasked with introducing amendments. This committee includes jurists belonging to the Mubarak regime and others belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.
I recall that I called one of the members of the committee, a well-known law professor from the Muslim Brotherhood, and I directly asked him: Why do you want to amend the old constitution that was toppled during the revolution? Shouldn't the revolution draft a new constitution that represents it?
He agreed with me and then started rambling, trying to justify the constitutional amendments. Following a long conversation, he openly said: Legitimacy was transferred from the revolution to the military council, and now they can do whatever they please.
Gradually, the deal between the Brotherhood and the military council crystallized. The counter-revolutionary military council, which wants to eliminate the revolution by all means possible, took the Brotherhood as an organized ally capable of mobilizing simpletons — using preachers in the mosques and bribes of cooking oil and sugar — to vote as the military council pleases.
The Brotherhood, blinded by its lust for power, allied with the military in order to ensure its access to power. The Brotherhood turned against the revolution, abandoned its goals and prioritized the elections so that it can write the constitution it wants.
In order to break the will of the revolutionaries, the junta — with the full blessing of the Brotherhood — caused many massacres that killed hundreds of martyrs and left thousands wounded. It reached the point where Brotherhood figures cursed the rebels, accusing them of thuggery.
In the end, the military council and the Brotherhood disagreed, the parliament was dissolved and Egyptians found themselves forced to elect Mohammed Morsi as president. This was not done out of support for the Brotherhood, nor out of a conviction that the group’s ideas were righteous, but in order to protect the revolution and overthrow presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's loyal student.
Three months into President Morsi's rule, he is unfortunately moving away from the goals of the revolution, all the while making an alliance with remnants of the Mubarak regime to serve the interests of the Brotherhood.
Amid this troubled framework, the crisis of Egypt’s General Prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahmoud emerged. The president's advisers talked to him and politely asked that he submit his resignation and assume the position of Egypt's ambassador to the Vatican. The general prosecutor agreed, but asked that he be appointed an ambassador in an Arab country since he is not good at languages.
The next day, the general prosecutor changed his mind and announced that he is clinging to his position, claiming that the request of the presidential advisers was a threat that infringed upon the independence of the judiciary.
Many supported the general prosecutor. While some of these supporters were revolutionaries who dreaded the Brotherhood's control of the judiciary, they mainly consisted of remnants of the old regime, to whom the survival of the general prosecutor constitutes a greater guarantee that protects them from being held accountable over what they committed during the Mubarak era.
Mahmoud was chosen by Hosni Mubarak and brought from the State Security Prosecution, where he had worked for many years, to serve as general prosecutor.
The following are excerpts from a statement issued by the Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture:
"The Al-Nadeem Center received thousands of reports of torture cases, whose files were consistently closed by the office of General Prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahmoud, one after another, through irrevocable decisions. These cases would be dropped “for lack of evidence,” thus depriving thousands of victims of reaching the courts in search for justice.”
This is unlike the dozens of cases in which the general prosecutor made political adjustments. Among such cases, one must mention the “death ferry” incident, the killing of protesters and Ahmed Shafiq’s corruption cases. Thus, we must no longer link the general prosecutor to the idea of independence of the judiciary.
If the general prosecutor remains in office, this does not suggest that the judiciary is independent. It is rather an indication that Mubarak’s regime has won, as it has managed to ensure that one of its most prominent figures remains in office for the next four years.
These political adjustments will prevent any revolutionary change or any serious attempt to hold corrupt officials accountable for their actions. Where were the advocates of judicial independence when the United States violated Egypt’s sovereignty and when Supreme Electoral Commission Chairman Abdel Moaz Ibrahim convened a special court session to release the American suspects?
The most surprising thing is that those who advocated for the general prosecutor staying in office were the same people who prevented the dismissal of Ibrahim and prevented him from being held accountable for smuggling American suspects out of Egypt.
Those advocating the independence of the judiciary did not voice their concerns when judges were given posts in ministries in exchange for generous rewards.
However, these same people made their voices heard regarding issues that affect the ministries in which they work. What do they think about the judges who participated in electoral fraud, and about the appointment of some advisers’ offspring in the public prosecution, despite the fact that they received mediocre scores in school, while those who had passed with distinction were not given positions?
Most judges in Egypt are honest and independent. However, the judicial system is not independent. The general prosecutor — who has violated the martyrs’ rights — cannot serve as a model for an independent judiciary; removing the general prosecutor was a genuine goal of the revolution.
So when President Morsi tried to dismiss the general prosecutor, why did the entire country — including some revolutionaries — attack him? The reason is the prevailing mistrust between President Morsi and the revolutionary forces.
The rebels are well aware of the Brotherhood’s history in striking opportunistic deals. The Brotherhood has abandoned the revolution to serve its own interests. This is not to mention that the relationship between Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood is quite ambiguous.
It remains unclear whether President Morsi is making decisions on his own or merely carrying out instructions given by the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide.
Why did the president pay tribute to Ibrahim, who has been associated with the scandal of smuggling American suspects? Why did he pay tribute to Field Marshal Tantawi and Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Annan instead of bring them to trial? Is this a sort of deal for a safe escape? Why has there been no investigations into the massacres that were carried out by the military council?
Moreover, the president did not cleanse the interior ministry of the former regime’s remnants. Instead he welcomed the generals, who were loyal to the Mubarak regime, and appointed Ahmed Jamal al-Din as interior minister, who is responsible for the massacre on Mohammed Mahmoud street. Was this an attempt on the part of the president to ensure his loyalty to the Brotherhood?
Why did the president not cancel the national security apparatus or turn it into an information gathering unit, as demanded by the revolution? Also, Morsi chose Gen. Khaled Tharwat — who is responsible for the Brotherhood’s affairs — to be at the head of the national security apparatus. Why did Morsi not abolish the Ministry of Information based on the revolution’s demands? Instead, he assigned a member of the Brotherhood to head it and make sure that whoever criticizes the Brotherhood is suppressed.
Most of the president’s decisions did not benefit the revolution and have even hurt its goals. It seems that a new bond has been established between the Brotherhood and the Mubarak regime. After all this, the people have a right to doubt the president’s decision.
Dismissing the general prosecutor is a popular demand. How will the president fulfill this demand, while he is keen to thwart the revolution’s goals in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood?
Morsi cannot serve two masters — as the Gospel said. The president cannot be loyal to the revolution’s goals and to the Brotherhood’s interests at the same time.
What took place last Friday proves this contradiction. While Morsi is trying to dismiss the general prosecutor, the Brotherhood mobilized thousands of supporters who attacked the revolutionaries in a barbaric and fascist way. This has caused the president to lose his popular support and the battle against the general prosecutor.
His defeats will certainly continue if he doesn't make a clear decision. The president needs to choose either to be a commissioner for the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide in the presidency and work for them, or be the president of the Egyptian people and vow to fulfill the revolution’s goals, even though they go against the Brotherhood’s interests.
The president still has the opportunity — which may be his last — to correct his course of action and support the revolution, by implementing the following steps:
First: Regulating the Brotherhood’s affairs, announcing their budget, subjecting their funding to state control and forbidding their leaders from interfering in the state’s affairs, as long as they do not hold official positions.
Second: Conducting a thorough cleansing of state institutions, primarily the ministry of interior. Thus far it has been managed by major-generals loyal to former Egyptian Minister of Interior Habib el-Adly, who are responsible for oppression, corruption, the killing of revolutionaries and security chaos.
Third: Prosecuting Hussein Tantawi, Sami Anan, Maj. Gen. Hamdi Badeen and Maj. Gen. Ghassan Roueini, who are responsible for successive massacres that killed hundreds of martyrs.
Fourth: Establishing revolutionary courts, in coordination with the Supreme Judicial Council, to investigate the massacres and killings of protesters. Their members — the judges — would be given the authority to interrogate men in uniform and civilians in order to achieve real justice.
Fifth: Implementing the presidential promise to make the Constituent Assembly representative of all parts of society. This would be achieved by adding the necessary number of representatives from democratic and revolutionary forces and giving them the right to vote, so that the constitution reflects the will of all Egyptians.
Sixth: Achieving social justice by enacting maximum and minimum wage rates and adding the special funds to the state treasury. Moreover, this should be coupled with applying a progressive taxation system to the rich and abolishing subsidies (natural gas, electricity, water) for those factories selling products at high prices. These measures will allow the state to save billions of Egyptian pounds and will probably prevent the president from having to borrow from abroad.
Seventh: Abolishing the Ministry of Information and promoting the independence of journalistic institutions, rather than making them dependent on the Shura Council. Abolishing the charge of insulting the president, which is used to intimidate the opposition and represents the greatest insult to the president.
These are examples of practical measures that aim to fulfill the revolution’s goals. If Morsi implements them, he will gain the support of all Egyptians. However, if he continues to appease the former regime in order to achieve the interests of the Brotherhood, he will lose everything sooner than he can imagine.
Democracy is the solution.
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