What Next? Uncertainties Continue in the Wake of the Egyptian Court Decision
Wow. The verdict of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court today offers yet another sudden abrupt shift in Egypt’s ongoing political transformation.
The Supreme Constitutional Court was meeting to consider the validity of a law passed in April by the parliament that denied political rights to anyone who held a senior government post or NDP position in the last decade of Mubarak’s rule.
The law would have effectively barred Ahmed Shafiq, one of the two front runners in the Presidential election from participating in the run-off elections.
Perhaps this would have meant third-ranked Nasserist candidate Hamdin Sabbahi would have moved forward to run against Morsi.
Instead, the Court’s decision was that one-third of Parliament had been illegally elected, so the law banning former regime officials doesn’t count. Nor does any other law it has passed. And, in fact, the whole Parliament will have to be dissolved and new elections held.
If Shafiq is elected, this may well essentially amount to a silent coup by the regime, putting a regime insider back into power, with no parliament to question or check him, and in a position to control, or at least strongly influence the writing of the new constitution, as well as the new Parliamentary elections.
Of course, this act by the courts may well push many people to vote for Morsi as the lesser of two evils. If Morsi is elected, things are murkier. To what extent will SCAF and the civil service cooperate with him? How much agency will he actually be able to exert in the absence of a functioning parliament, SCAF authority over police and military forces, and an unclear constitutional process?
Of course, it’s possible that SCAF has already accomplished its coup and the elections are just a farce anyway, as Alaa al-Aswani writes in the Huffington Post:
The biggest mistake Egyptians could make would be to consider the second round of elections to be a real contest between the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, and the military’s candidate, Ahmed Shafik. If the second round takes place before these defects are rectified, Shafik will inevitably become president. If the Muslim Brotherhood took their national responsibility seriously, they would call for the elections to be annulled and rerun after Shafik was disqualified and put on trial. Unfortunately the Brotherhood is repeating all its mistakes — as soon as the prospect of winning power looms, they lose sight of all other considerations, however important.
Another pessimistic outlook was expressed by Foreign Policy blogger Mark Lynch, who wrote:
Weeks before the SCAF’s scheduled handover of power, Egypt now finds itself with no parliament, no constitution (or even a process for drafting one), and a divisive presidential election with no hope of producing a legitimate, consensus-elected leadership. Its judiciary has become a bad joke, with any pretence of political independence from the military shattered beyond repair.
Can’t say I have much optimism myself this time.
A June 14 editorial in al-Masryoon by Executive Chief Editor Mahmoud Sultan says Shafiq is being supported by salafists of the Takfiri movement, which continues to be against citizens having a role in government.He writes:
The sheikhs in this group had issued a fatwa in 2007 – following the famous pharmacists’ strike in protest against the low wages – considering that demonstrations and strikes were among the “doctrines of the apostates. The sheikhs of the group supporting Shafik are also the ones who had announced that Mubarak was the “prince of believers” and had the right to pass on power to his son in accordance with the “righteous Salaf,” justifying the brutal oppression practiced by the former president against the oppositionists.