Screwing Over Secular Liberal Egyptians, Yet Again

Egypt’s ruling military council, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), has appointed Kamal al-Ganzouri as the new prime minister. According to Issandr El Amrani, “Ganzouri was prime minister between 1996 and 1999 and was known for his autocratic style, his tendency to micromanage government and his repression of the press and civil society.” His appointment “brings back a man from a bygone era.” We should expect nothing less from the SCAF, who have been trying to consolidate their power and the restore the old order ever since Mubarak fell (with gracious U.S. support).

There is a lot of talk about how detrimental the massive voter turnout for conservative-religous parties like the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafi movement’s Al-Nour Party. I agree, it is a concern and if their rise to power coincides with the sort of theocracy they’ve been advocating, it is both detrimental to civil rights and counter to the spirit of the youth movement which succeeded in ousting Mubarak. Of course, the concern Washington has for the rise of Islamists isn’t about human rights and secular democracy, but rather that it will result in a less subservient Egyptian foreign policy. In fact, that was a concern of Washington’s whether the Islamists or the liberals won.

But if not for U.S. support for SCAF – which is as wrong and tyrannical as was supporting Mubarak – the youth-liberal movement may have had a chance to establish constitutional principles restricting government from imposing religion and violating individual rights. Back in the summer, according to a CRS report, “the SCAF granted some concessions to secular liberal groups. It reshuffled the cabinet and asked experts to draft a set of constitutional principles to serve as guidelines before a constitution is actually drafted, angering some Islamists who charge that any set of principles devoid of overt references to Islamic law would make the country too secular.” A political fight broke out between secular liberals and Islamists and what instead ended up happening was that last month SCAF had Deputy Prime Minister Ali al Salmi draft a set of constitutional principles “which would, if adopted and adhered to, vastly increase the power of the military at the expense of political parties.” The draft included:

  • no parliamentary oversight of the military’s defense budget. Article 9 of the draft states that the military’s budget will appear as a single number in the state’s budget;
  • a provision that would require parliamentarians to obtain the military’s approval prior to issuing any laws affecting the military;
  • authority for the military to refer the new constitution to the Supreme Constitutional Court if it is thought to violate any of the constitutional declarations issued by the military;
  • a provision that would allow the military to appoint 80 of the 100 members of the planned constitutional assembly;
  • authority to appoint a new constitutional assembly if the first one could not agree on a constitution within six months;

America’s desperate attempt to maintain status-quo-tyranny in Egypt led to a missed opportunity to establish constitutional principles that would have restricted the power of the state to impose an Islamic theocracy. Bravo, interventionism!

  • Richard

    Even though "Democracy" is a sacred word, it's easy for it to suck. Just takes 50.00001% of voters to be jerks and/or idiots, and the whole thing falls apart.

  • ummabdulla

    Most of those million people who came to Tahrir Square were not secular, liberal, media-savvy, Facebook revolutionaries; those just happen to be the group that Western media prefers. It was never labelled a protest for a liberal secular democracy; it was the Egyptian people (most of whom want an Islamic government, as the election results show) coming together to get rid of Mubarak. Why do we keep hearing them whine now that the Islamic parties are winning the elections? Which anyone who knows anything about Egypt knew was going to happen…

    • Newyorker In egypt

      second that strongly

  • Islamic parties' winning is what the US and Israel always want. That's why they set up Hamas. That's why they overthrew the secular (not liberal) Saddam. Islamic governments are easy to demonize and easy to manipulate, since they don't have to answer to the people. These developments are pretty much what the US warfare state wanted. Too bad for women and for advocates of religious freedom (the very people USG always claims to be helping.)

  • masmanz

    I agree with ummabdula, one has to trust the democratic process. There is no reason to assume that a large percentage of the populace is naive or stupid. But then, here in the US we saw Bush voted back to the office. I guess the bottom line is do you want democracy or not?

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