Monday, December 3, 2012

Constitutional Referendum Leaves Country Divided

President Morsi's sweeping Constitutional Decree issued on November 21st has been met with public anger and dissent. With Egyptians again taking to the streets, a power struggle at the very street levels has begun. We saw this weekend massive liberal rallies on Friday (albeit smaller than last Tuesday's rallies), followed by the Muslim Brotherhood rallies on Saturday. While the MB's media camp has claimed over 6 million supporters showed up to rally at their protests, the liberal camp have insisted that the MB bussed their supporters in from all over Egypt - hence the mass turn-out. The picture below illustrates this.

Buses carried MB supporters to Cairo
from all throughout Egypt.

The MB protests were out to show their support firstly for President Morsi's decree, and secondly for the new draft Constitution, which was voted on last Wednesday. Many argue that this draft Constitution violates basic human rights and freedom of belief. The MB supporters however, see it as a positive step towards making Egypt a truly Islamic "free" country, and one that continues to uphold the principles of the Egyptian Revolution.

On Saturday, the Islamists made their intentions very clear. The Deputy Chairman of Egypt's Salafist movement, the more extreme arm of political Islamists, Sheikh Yasser Burhami,said: “This million man demonstration demands the application of Allah’s Shariah ... The Egyptian people chose the Islamists as their representatives in parliament and in the constituent assembly through which we suffered and tolerated a lot to produce a constitution that will pave the way for the people to apply Allah’s Shariah ... We tell the Constitutional Court that no one will defeat the people of Egypt. Thirty men and a woman who do not respect the laws of Allah will not rule Egypt by tailoring laws and regulations.” [In reference to the Constitutional Court's Judicial Board, made up of 30 male judges and one female. I won't even comment on the obvious repugnant tone of that last statement. Source]

Hundreds of thousands (note, not millions)
rally in support of Morsi on Saturday, Dec. 1
Photo by Mohannad Sabry. Source

These comments come after President Morsi approved the Draft Constitution on Thursday, less than 24 hours after having been handed it by the Constituent Assembly, who took less than 48 hours to approve the entire thing. Talk about a rushed job. Morsi has stressed that: "following the efforts of the Constituent Assembly, and after lovingly receiving this draft constitution from you today, I call the Egyptian people to vote on this constitution on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012."

To familiarize yourself with the new Draft Constitution that has so many people angry, the BBC provided a great comparison of the old and new Constitutions here. I highly recommend taking the time to read it. You can find it here, and please take note of a few important distinctions. One, the minority religions have been excluded, and in the new Constitution are no longer seen as a religious group. Note the system of politics is now based on Shura. And media freedom is no longer guaranteed, as it may be 'suspended when needed.'

Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Morsi's decree, here are a few major points. He has granted himself supreme authority over all ruling and legislative bodies in Egypt. His decisions may not be repealed. He has the power to sack and appoint any government-service employee he wants - a power that he quickly used in sacking the old prosecutor general, and appointing a member of his own family to the post [ironically enough, this new PG declared he did not support Morsi's recent political moves.] In addition, he has paved the way for a re-trial of Mubarak and his top aides. To read the whole text in English, you can click here or here

The popular blogger Sandmonkey said: "Morsi can now strip people of their citizenships or hand it out to others, try them in “special courts” for vague charges, shut down private enterprises or media outlets or seize them, reshape our judiciary branches and their roles singlehandedly, and even change your last name, and no one will be able to legally question or stop his decision ... Granting yourself this level of power is so in the essence of fascism that president Morsy’s new nickname is Morsilini.  It’s as if he is stating that while the old regime was autocratic, dictatorial and secular, thankfully the revolution happened and we are no longer secular."

Is it any wonder that the liberals are so angry? That Egypt is once again standing on a precipice? Tomorrow a general Civil Strike has been called for, as the liberals gear up to try and topple the new tyrant. However, with all this going on, I remain focused on the referendum set for the 15th of December. If past behaviour is anything to go by [and with the MB you can pretty much be assured of this] they will pay people to go and vote "YES." Many in the liberal camp are already calling for a boycott. To that I have one thing to say: 

Did you not learn from the last time? 

The liberal boycott is what helped Morsi come to power to begin with. While many liberals will argue that voting somehow validates Morsi's decree or the grossly nonrepresentational Constitutional Court, not voting is simply, well, stupid. Not voting ensures that this restrictive Constitution will be passed. Not voting will lead to more unrest.

And let me be clear, while voting "NO" means that the power falls back to Morsi, who then has to HIMSELF [not by public vote - wtf?!] pick a new Constitutional Court, leaving Egypt in the same position it found itself in when picking between Morsi and Shafiq. How can you pick the lesser of two evils in this situation? 

In the end, I'll let this graph do the talking. It boils down to simple mathematics. By voting "NO" at least you buy yourself additional time to sort this situation out. By not voting, you can look forward to many years of autocratic Islamist rule, while occasionally rallying in Tahrir in a feeble attempt to admit "maybe we [the liberals] screwed the pooch on this one" (again). Please don't let it happen. 

By Mona A. Ghani



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