Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Selmy’s supra-constitutional principles document is not actually his. Nor was it proposed by the cabinet. It belongs to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and represents yet another of its confused decisions.
However, the bright side is that this document seeks to strike a balance between political powers to prevent any one of them from monopolizing the formulation of the constitution to suit its own interests.
The downside is that the document would grant the SCAF a certain exalted status that would allow it to be above the three other powers of the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. This attempt has provoked all national powers.
What’s more, the document was hurriedly presented to the public without sufficient debate on its content. Furthermore, the release of Selmy’s document fanned the flames of an already-intense electoral battle. When the document elicited a violent response on the part of national powers, the government declared it non-binding and amended the articles concerning the armed forces.
Leaders of Islamists groups, which were dissatisfied with some articles in the document, decided to seize the opportunity for a showdown with the SCAF. In fact, Islamist powers had been gearing up for this confrontation since Sami Anan, the chief of staff of the Egyptian armed forces, said a civilian state was a necessity and a matter of national security.
And so the Islamist wave decided to organize last Friday’s “Single Demand” million-man protest to call for the abolition of Selmy’s documnent.
Most of those who gathered in Tahrir Square are not aware that five months ago, the Muslim Brotherhood accepted the very same document which they reject today.
As part of the Democratic Alliance for Egypt, the Brotherhood held a meeting on 28 June at the headquarters of their Freedom and Justice Party and announced that the alliance has produced the Supra-constitutional Principles document.
At the time, the relationship between the Brotherhood and the SCAF was at its best and the balance of power between the Brotherhood and other parties had not yet been settled.
As the elections draw closer, Islamist powers feel more confident. In this light, the emergence of another demand – that of power handover to civilians – comes as no surprise. In fact, that – and not Selmy’s document – was the chief demand of the protest.
Some Islamist powers have gone so far as to set April as the deadline for handing over power.
Non-Islamist groups, meanwhile, were also finalizing a memorandum to be submitted to the SCAF to urge a handover of power to civilians. It is true that this document does not officially represent all non-Islamist powers, but it still represents them all in some way.
The memorandum calls for the formation of a national salvation government with full powers, followed by the election of a Constituent Assembly to write the constitution and then the election of a president, ending the rule of the SCAF. Parliamentary elections should be held at this point.
These are the steps being followed in Tunisia. Even though this is not a sacred path that should be followed with no deviations, it has proven successful. There is no need to snobbishly disregard the Tunisian experience, claiming Egypt is not Tunisia.
Entering into these details will reignite disagreements between the various parties and return us to the question about whether elections or the constitution should come first. The common demand among all powers is that a transfer of power takes place.
I believe the SCAF will not submit to this demand unless all political powers come together in a united front. The SCAF will not hand over power to warring factions. There are threats to the revolution, the country is in danger, security is absent, sectarian problems remain unsolved, the economy is in distress, and remnants of the dissolved National Democratic Party are on the lookout for gains. Elections are
likely to exacerbate the situation further.
We do not have the luxury to disagree. Our elite and leaders should admit that they have betrayed the revolution by looking to serve their own interests, falsely believing that they alone could reap the fruits of the revolution.
If politicians fail to restore the 25 January revolution spirit, Egyptians will curse all politicians.
Translated from the Arabic Edition