10 Political Battles Will Shape Egypt

Tuesday, 13 Mar 2012 11:35 AM

By Tawfik Hamid

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The future of Egypt, which is likely to affect to future of the Middle East, can be determined or at least significantly affected by several political battles. These "battles" have already started and their outcomes — which will be apparent within the next few months — are crucial to the future of the country.

The following 10 political battles are likely to shape the future of Egypt:

1. Shariah law. The first battle is due to the second item of the Egyptian constitution (Shariah law). The use of Shariah as part of the legislation in the Egyptian constitution has been a topic of debate for several decades. After the 1952 revolution in Egypt the constitution included Shariah as "a source (among other sources) of legislation."

Soon after, President Sadat altered the text that described the role of Shariah law in the Egyptian constitution from "a source of legislation" to be "the main source of legislation. "Many believe that Sadat's decision was to appease the Islamists and to prove them wrong in their accusations that the government was "Kafer (Infidel like)."

The exact wording that was used in Sadat's constitution to describe the role of Shariah law stated "The principles of Shariah law are the main source for legislation."

Currently, there is a new battle over Shariah. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) seems to be satisfied with the word "principles." However, the Salafi groups insist on replacing the word "principles" (mabadii) with the word "laws" (ahkam).

For example, punishing a person for steeling is a Shariah "principle" that could be implemented in several ways including imprisonment. On the contrary, amputating one's hand would be deemed as "ahkam" or a law. The results of this battle may determine if Egypt will become another Iran, or Taliban, or will follow the path of modernity.

2. The right to appeal the election results. The second battle in Egypt concerns the right to appeal the election results of the coming president (item 28 in the current constitution). This item prevents any person or body appeal against the ruling of the supreme constitutional committee that will review the election results and decide who will be the coming president of the country.

According to item 28, if all Egyptians elected "X"and the committee decided that the winner is "Y", no one has the right to object to the results or demand an appeal in the court. Islamists and liberals as well are very worried about this rule as it will prevent them from having any chance to reject the results of the presidential elections in June if they are triumphed by the military.

3. Selecting the 100 people to write the new Egyptian constitution. The third battle is about selecting the 100 people who will write the new Egyptian constitution. According to the referendum that was conducted after the January 25 revolution, the parliament is the body that is supposed to choose the 100 people who will create the new constitution. This principle has become a major concern, especially since the Islamists control over 70 percent of the parliament seats. The latter will certainly discriminate against liberals, Christians, women, and anyone who opposes their views.

Several intellectuals are currently raising the issue that the vernacular used in the referendum gave the parliament the right to "elect" and not the right to "appoint" the 100 persons. According to this view, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and/or other legal body in the country can suggest an array of people for the parliament to choose from.

This means that the SCAF can suggest seculars — which will end the Islamists dream of creating the new constitution. The battle of selecting the 100 people who will create the new constitution, and subsequently shape the future of the country, is currently heating up.

4. The special privileges for the military. The fourth battle is subject to the special privileges the military desires to have in the new constitution. These include, but are not limited to, immunity from civilian auditing and immunity for the SCAF personnel from punishment of past acts. Special privileges also include keeping the economic power of the military out of parliamentary control.

This battle between the military and the parliament will be a fierce one, as the military is fighting for their power and money. The Islamists are afraid that the special privileges for the military will allow the latter to turn against them at any time and will deprive them from controlling the military of the country.

5. Who will control Al-Azhar. The fifth battle is between Sheik of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Taiib (who is seen by many as a moderate Islamic scholar), and the Islamists (particularly the MB and Salafi groups). The SCAF, which currently has presidential power, issued a ruling that Sheik Ahmed Al-Taiib can remain in his position, as the highest religious authority of the country, until the age of 80.

Islamists who dominate the parliament threatened to review all the decisions that have been issued by the SCAF, especially this decision that allows Ahmed Al-Taiib to stay — as they want to end his control over Al-Azhar. The Islamists want to bring forth a more radical leader whom will agree with their radical Islamic agenda for the country that is likely to further suppress personal freedoms and women rights.

Recently, the MB leaders, in an effort to best show their power, inviting Ismaeil Haneia — the leader of the Hamas terrorist organization — to speak in Al-Azhar mosque to thousands of people. The outcome of this battle between the Sheik of Al-Azhar and the MB over control of Al-Azhar can significantly affect the future of Egypt.

6. Possible sharp rise in unemployment after March 2012. The sixth battle is to prevent the possible sharp rise in unemployment after March 2012. The reason for this possibility is that when the tourism industry collapsed after the Jan. 25 revolution, major hotels and tourism companies decided to pay salaries (from past revenues) for their employees for another year, i.e., until March 2012, expecting that the tourism industry will rise again during the year.

According to different sources within the country, there is a strong possibility that sudden termination of jobs will occur this March and is likely to affect hundreds of thousands of workers in the tourism sector. If this were to occur, another battle for the government could arise as the sudden rise in unemployment will most likely result in social unrest and increase the rate of crimes which can cause a further decline in tourism and drag the country to greater economic turmoil.

7. The constitutionality of the recently elected parliament. The seventh battle is between the SCAF and the Islamists concerning the constitutionality of the recently elected parliament. The supreme court of appeals considered that the parliamentary elections were unconstitutional and that the matter is to be determined finally by the supreme constitutional court. The SCAF seems to be holding this "Red Card" in its hands to use it in case the MB refuses to give it extra privileges in the new constitution. At any moment until the election of a new president the SCAF can use this Red Card to delegitimize the Islamist-led parliament.

8. Changing the current government. The eighth battle is also between the SCAF and MB and is about the appointment of the government. Currently, the government is appointed by the SCAF. As an attempt to control ALL the power within the country, the MB has been trying to get rid of the relatively secular SCAF-appointed government and to appoint a new Islamist-dominated government instead.

The MB wants to gain as much power as possible prior to the presidential elections to avoid the possibility that the military will turn against them if the presidential elections bring forth someone the military doesn't accept. Both sides — the military and the MB — seem to distrust one another.

9. The sentence for Mubarak on June 2, 2012. The ninth battle is likely to happen in early June when the judge announces the sentence for Mubarak. This decision, irrespective of what it will be, can start several confrontations within the country.

If the judge decides to consider Mubarak guilty of killing the demonstrators and consequently give him capital punishment, the supporters of Mubarak can initiate major trouble in the country. Similarly, if he was considered to be innocent, people may start massive demonstrations against the military and accuse it of being biased toward Mubarak.

10. How to prevent further collapses of the foreign reserves. The 10th battle is an economical one, in hopes to prevent further collapses of the foreign reserves of the country. After the Jan. 25 revolution the foreign reserves of the country started to collapse, partially due to a collapse in both the tourism industry and foreign investment funds. Currently the foreign reserves of the government can cover the imports for only a few months.

If this problem is not solved the country will go into a plummeting cascade and a serious crisis related to shortage of food will be bound to occur.

This article previously appeared in The Jerusalem Post.

Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam."Read more reports from Tawfik Hamid — Click Here Now.







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