Egypt: Sting in the tail

Islamist parties campaigned vigorously for a yes vote in the March 2011 referendum on the interim Constitutional Declaration. Now some of them wish they hadn’t – Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Gamal Essam El-Din, 25 April – 1 May 2012.

The millions who voted in last year’s referendum on the interim constitutional declaration had little, if any, idea of the ramifications of Article 28 which they approved with a resounding yes. Ironically, many of those voters will have been swayed by Islamist parties which urged their supporters to endorse the constitutional declaration, subsequently refused any renegotiation of its contents, and are now among the most vociferous critics of one of its articles.  

Article 28 states that the decisions of the Presidential Elections Commission (PEC), which oversees the presidential poll, are final, and cannot be appealed.

“It is a conspiracy against the Egyptian people and parliament,” railed Salafi MP Mamdouh Ismail, “deliberately designed to foment a state of confusion.”

Farouk Sultan, who heads both the Supreme Constitutional Court and PEC, is notorious for meddling in elections, charged Ismail. “He was instructed to rig the 2009 Bar Association elections to prevent Islamists from winning and as a reward was promoted to head the SCC.” And now, complains Ismail, Article 28 gives Sultan the power necessary to fix the results of the presidential poll.

In a rare show of unity leftist MP Saad Aboud agreed with Ismail. “The chairman of the SCC and PEC was up his neck in manipulating the election of the Bar Association in favour of Mubarak’s defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP),” says Aboud … //

… Hussein Ibrahim, parliamentary spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, accepts Sultan’s argument. There is too little time, he says, to hold another referendum, especially when the energies of political forces are focussed on the drafting of a new constitution and preparing for presidential elections.

Head of the People’s Assembly’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee Mahmoud El-Khodeiri also warns of the dangers inherent in “filing appeals against the orders of the representatives of the highest judicial authorities in Egypt and making the legitimacy of the next president contingent upon ongoing legal disputes”.

“Instead of making a fuss about Article 28 we should be endeavouring to ensure the integrity of presidential elections,” says Sameh Ashour, head of the SCAF-appointed advisory council. “And this can be achieved by allowing the media and civil society organisations a free hand in monitoring the poll.”

Left leaning MP Abul-Ezz El-Hariri rejects arguments that amending Article 28 will require a referendum. “The integrity of the presidential election will remain in doubt as long as it is impossible to appeal the orders of PEC,” he says. “There is no reason why what are basically administrative rulings be placed beyond appeal.”

El-Hariri has proposed that political parties submit a request to SCAF asking it to amend Article 28. (full text).

Links:

Egypt: No obvious choice;

Egypt: Cold-shouldering consensus;

Egypt: Protestophilia.

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