Wednesday 11 January 2012

Highlights Of Ali El Selmi's Democratic Transition Plan

While the entire government of Essam Sharaf had experienced quite a dramatic fall-from-grace, one particular man, other than Sharaf himself, had a lion's share of such a fall. That man, of course, was deputy PM and Al-Wafd politician Dr. Ali El-Selmi, architect of what improperly had come to be referred to as "El-Selmi's Document", a set of guidelines for the next Egyptian constitution that were supposed to be agreed upon by major political forces and set as supra-constitutional entrenched clauses and principles. That project, of course, was slaughtered, and along with it much of Ali El-Selmi's political profile as well.

But other than the (in)famous document, El-Selmi had another profound job, embedded into his uniquely long governmental title, and that was to oversee the country's "democratic transition". Yesterday, AMAY published a copy of El-Selmi's plan for "The Democratic Transition And Achievement Of The Goals Of The Revolution."  We almost couldn't have asked for a better title for the document.

What was interesting about El-Selmi's plan, as AMAY puts it as well, was that he also put significant emphasis on closing many loopholes from which the remnants of the Mubarak Regime, whether physically on in political mentality, could possibly leak through. It was, well, a significantly ambitious plan to say the least.

The vision carried in the plan was divided into four quasi-consecutive phases: "Leaving The Mubarak State"; "Restoring Normal Conditions"; "Setting The Infrastructure For The New Democratic System"; "Entering The Democratic System." The plan itself is quite long, and here I merely present the major points as I understood them from AMAY's presentation.

As you read on, remember that this was drafted pretty much right after the revolution. The plan follows a very logical progression of ideas, as you would expect in the case of a country coming out of a revolution. There are, of course, certain points which might not win the agreement of everyone.

A) Highlights include of the first phase, very properly titled "Leaving the Mubarak State", included:

- Completing the census of those who lost their lives, were injured or deemed lost during the revolution, while honouring and compensating their families.

- Immediate release of all political prisoners, and the review of all those tried in extraordinary courts as well as a review of all prisons.

- Restructuring the Interior Ministry, disbanding the former State Security agency, and prosecuting any members involved in illegal activity.

- Forming an independent judiciary committee to investigate all cases of political corruption, electoral fraud, and refer all proven cases to prosecution. Also, removing all local governors, Governorate Secretary-Generals, Local Council heads, and choosing/electing others.

- Reviewing all government oversight agencies, while removing all elements and leadership proven to have worked against professional ethics in collaboration with the previous regime. A special judiciary committee will review the performance of Central Accounting Agency.

- An immediate review of all of Egypt's international gas, oil and privatisation contracts, with investigations into any possible corruption.

- Prosecutor-General to be appointed by High Judiciary Council, who would also be in charge of Judicial Inspection instead of the Ministry Of Justice.

- State Radio & Television would be eventually transformed into a BBC-like independent entity, with its leadership chosen through a different methodology, whether through internal elections or otherwise. State Newspapers would be purged of all proven-as-corrupt leadership and any influential individuals affiliated with the former regime, while eventually removing them from State Control through, for example, turning them into Limited Liability Companies or cooperatives or any other form of ownership.

- Allowing all professional unions to manage, restructure and reorganise themselves through internal and transparent means, away from State interference. Calling for new student body elections.

- Activating the law for the prosecution and trial of ministers and governmental servants for unlawful earnings, and having any such cases investigated and prosecuted.

B) Highlights of the Second Phase, "Restoring Normal Conditions", include:

- Restoring Security, and upholding the fair rule of law. A national reconciliation between citizens and the police, while dealing with any security personnel who were involved in the violence during the revolution.

- Fixing and rehabilitating any governmental agencies and units that were physically damaged during the revolution, while also similarly helping private entities and enterprises that experienced any damage as well. Also, individual citizens may be compensated.

- Injecting a financial stream into the system that would help cushion the results of recently increased unemployment since the revolution, while in no way placing any blame on the revolution. An independent economic judiciary committee to study demand by groups of citizens with particular categorical demands, who experienced economic hardship and maltreatment during the Mubarak days.

- Setting the minimum national wage, and maximum governmental wage.

- Reviewing governmental spending, and reviewing subsidies in particular, all in search of spending cuts. Reviewing the tax code and all forms of special taxation (e.g. Capital gains taxes, taxes on advertisements, etc...) and searching for methods to increase governmental resources.

- Temporary limitation of certain imports with national equivalents, while encouraging national sources to produce such equivalents. Review of Tariffs in accordance with WTO laws, as well as a review of export subsidies.

C) Highlights of the Third Phase, "Setting The Infrastructure For The New Democratic System", include:

- The Constitutional Principles Document, which basically aimed to state all the consensual and the liberal principles and clauses from the 1971 constitution, add a few others in the same vein. Document began as a guideline charter, then, as you know, underwent an attempt at becoming a legally-binding one.

- Setting the guidelines for the Constitutional Assembly that would write the constitution, to ensure wide representation of different entities in society, including professional, cultural and artistic, religious, social, scientific, and other entities.

- Ensuring all debate in the parliament and the constitutional Assembly would be public

- There were also calls for new or streamlined and liberalised legislation covering the construction of houses of worship, creation of political parties. practice of political rights, election law, laws governing parliament, laws covering the judiciary, laws on the freedom of media and newspapers, having elections take place using the national ID card rather than old system with electoral lists and special electoral cards, usage of IT in the development of the electoral process, and more.

D) Finally, the fourth phase, "Entering The Democratic System"

- Undergoing all the different necessary elections (Parliamentary, Presidential, etc...)

- Encouraging a national democratic culture through the encouragement of democratically-managed grassroots bodies in educational and student bodies, PTAs, apartment-owners unions in a building, unions, and more, as well as the encouragement of local dispute-resolution. There would also be a promotion of collective leadership styles as opposed to single-leader and pyramidical philosophies.

- Ensuring national dialogue and consensus over any issue of national importance, while promoting the usage of polling and public opinion methodologies to make sure state policies fulfill true needs of the citizens, and achieve them in the best possible way.


Now, some of these targets have experienced one degree of attention or another, some still future-bound, some remain of uncertain future. But while I can indulge in long and tedious analysis, I would rather leave you with a very poignant comment by friend, who had just read the plan when he said:

"So, what happens now?"

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