Threat To Democracy In Egypt – OpEd
By Ali Younes
Ever since Islamist President Mohammed Mursi won the presidency in Egypt, last month, he has been facing an unrelenting war from a broad coalition made up of the Supreme Constitutional Court, the Supreme Military Council and the state-owned media. The one thing in common in all three is that they were appointed by the previous Mubarak regime and were part of, and the driving force, of the corrupt state Mubarak had built during his 30 years in power.
When the military council dissolved the democratically elected parliament last month, just before Mursi was declared president, it was acting as the executive power enforcing the decision of the Supreme Constitutional Court. The Court ruled with remarkable speed that the law under which the Parliament was elected was unconstitutional.
Dissolving a parliament that was elected by 31 million Egyptian citizens, declaring it unconstitutional is a bizarre way to interpret the law and assert the “independence “of the judiciary. In doing so, the Court is behaving, strange as it sounds, as the only source of legitimacy in the land, not the tens of millions of Egyptians who voted the Parliament in power.
The military council then gave itself, with the support of the Court, full legislative powers as well as executive powers that in effect rendered Mursi a powerless president even though he won the elections fair and square. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to know the reasons behind the Constitutional Court decisions which were coordinated with military leaders.
The Court and the Military leaders are united by their mortal fear, over their interests and perks, of the Muslim Brotherhood organization which dominates the Parliament and won the presidency. Mursi’s greatest sin is that he is an Islamist from the opposition who defeated their candidate Ahmed Shafiq, an ally and old guard from the Mubarak regime.
This decision would be akin to the U.S. Supreme Court, relying on the 1857 decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford, to declare the Presidency of Barak Obama illegal and unconstitutional because he is black, and therefore non-citizen, and then proceed to dissolve the current Congress because it was elected while Obama, being black, was president.
In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sanford that blacks cannot become citizens, nor do slaves become free when taken into Free states. After his owner died, Dred Scott sued the widow of his owner arguing that he is now a free man because he was living a free state of Minnesota which was a state that prohibited slavery.
But since then, the Dred Scott decision has become incompatible with culture, and the norms of the American society let alone, it itself became unconstitutional with the passing of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Supreme Court which the Egyptian Court claims that it uses as a source of its legal opinions would never infringe on the executive powers of the U.S. president. The U.S. military leaders, moreover, cannot act independently of the U.S. president or violate his orders. Under U.S. law, the president of the United States is the Supreme Commander of the armed forces and Joint Chiefs of Staff act as his advisers, not his equal.
Meanwhile, a zealous army of pro-Mubarak media outlets, commentators, analysts and talk show hosts have been very vocal in their support of the Court’s decision claiming that the Egyptian Judiciary must keep its independence and its decisions must be respected. CBC news channel went as far as calling on the military to declare a coup against Mursi according to Egyptian press reports. The fact is, however, the Egyptian judiciary has never been independent of the influence and control of Mubarak regime with the exception of few known judges.
Furthermore, in the United States, Supreme Court judges tend to be known as legal scholars, are first nominated by the president, then publicly questioned and approved by Congress. In Egypt the Judges were appointed by the Mubarak family as rewards and favors to their friends and allies.
The chief of the Constitutional Court Farooq Sultan owes his position to his connections with Mubarak. After retiring as a Lt. Colonel in the army, Mubarak then rewarded him by placing him in the military justice system, then as chief Justice of the Conditional Court; a position he clearly was unqualified for.
His deputy Tahany el Gabali, also owes her position to her friendship with Mubarak’s wife, Susan, who saw to it to appoint her to the court. Gabali went from a lawyer in the private practice, to deputy Chief of the highest court in the land. Thanks to her friendship with Susan Mubarak who practically appointed her at the Court.
Even though many Egyptian analysts argue that the “rule of law” should be respected in the interests of the “respected independent judiciary” the history of this court shows that was anything but respected or independent.
In 2000, Egyptian magazine Rose el Yousef published an article by former speaker of the Parliament and former judge Yihya Refai in which he recalled asking Mubarak a question as to why the Court waited six years to rule on his decision to suspend the Parliament and whether Mubarak was controlling the Court. Mubarak agreed with the question premise saying that “what was said is true, and the Court had acted in the best interest of the political stability of Egypt.”
Egyptian columnist Farrag Ismail wrote in al Gumhouriya newspaper that “Mubarak is still essentially rules Egypt through his cronies who fill the state media, the courts system and the military.” Ismail who is not an Islamist and a mainstream well-known writer, argues that Mursi, should in due time clean up the military, the state-owned media and the justice system from Mubarak’s cronies. “Those cronies are a threat to democracy and the driving force that tries to bring Egypt back under the thump of corruption and dictatorship,” he added.
– Ali Younes is a writer and journalist based in Washington D.C. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: [email protected].