Sunday 9 December 2012

Why This Was Not A Real Compromise

I will write a more extended article tomorrow about why I think the Egyptian Presidency's recent batch of decisions were not real "compromises," but I wanted to make a few points quickly as I have been stating them on twitter and media. I have five minutes to write, so I will not pay much attention to eloquence here.

Yes, by cancelling the previous Orwellian constitutional declaration and setting a potential roadmap in the case the constitutional draft was struck down in a referendum, it could be argued that the president made some step towards the centre. However:

1- The recent package of decisions announced by the national dialogue team does not represent real compromise because the President has largely gotten what he wanted from his original constitutional declaration, even now as he rescinded it. In short, he has managed to let the constituent assembly finish its controversial draft constitution, despite walkouts from the assembly by all liberal members, feminist and human rights representatives, the Church, the advisory committee and more - leaving only Islamist forces and affiliates forming a total of 86 people on the final voting day.

2- The president had promised he would not subject the document to a referendum before national consensus was achieved. Adding on the final lines in the previous point, this is certainly not the case. Egypt is more divided than ever right now, and these are not the conditions wanted for what was hoped to be the first democratically-made constitution in the history of the country. No one is claiming that everyone was going to agree on everything in any final document, but more consensus could have been reached on how to resolve the current constitutional conflict, regardless of the direction used.

3- Egyptian expats will vote in a few days, whereas the rest of Egypt will vote in less than a week. That means that several million Egyptians have only a few days to understand and decide on the document that should decide the fate of their nation for years and decades, while the rest of the population has less than a week. Bear in mind that this is an exhausted population following the revolution's aftermath, many of whom work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet, and with more than one third of the country illiterate. While I openly object to the constitutional draft and would vote "No" to it today, there is still an interesting additional note: I have followed every document released by the assembly from day one, analysed and written about them, attended formal discussion groups on the documents, have studied relevant academic material in my education, and I - and others like me - are actually still discovering new perspectives about this document till this day! What would a normal citizen do? People need at least a month to study this document and make up their minds in an informed decision. Trying to rush the referendum appears to be an attempt to capitalise on current conditions to secure a yes vote.

4- The current prosecutor-general will remain, who is already appearing to be controversial in some of his actions. A revolutionary demand was that the judiciary would nominate the PG or at least nominate candidates for the president to choose from. Instead, the president did what Mubarak did and appointed someone directly, allowing critics to ask questions over influence and affiliations.

5- The president's decisions again took the form of a constitutional declaration. The opposition and others, including Tarik Al-Bishry who led the process of drafting the March 2011 constitutional amendements, do not believe that he has the legal power to issue such declarations. The president swore his official oath to the current March 2011 constitutional declaration. In doing so, he has vowed to uphold it. If he wishes to amend it, such amendments should - theoretically - be done through referendum. And yet, despite issuing a declaration, the presidency does not want to amend the article on the time of the referendum, legally set as 15 days from the reception of the draft constitution. But even without that, it is argued that in a state of national crisis such referenda could be delayed. The country is in a deep security problem and even the safety of voters could - theoretically again - be at stake. On that basis alone the referendum should be delayed. The referendum has to be delayed, if there is any real desire by the administration for people to actually make some informed opinion of any kind. I have asked tens of current yes and no voters, and many are basing their decisions on things that are either inaccurate or had changed from previous drafts!

And yes, the opposition have not done well within the content of their last few moves. I will write in detail about that later.

I will probably update this post again based on some questions or comments that I get, or follow up thoughts. But I wanted to get this out there fast.


One note I remembered, one point that was also discussed was whether or not this constitutional referendum also have some conditions on turnout quorum and minimum required percentage for passage.

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