Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Article 56: A Referendum Disrespected

I know I’m revisiting an old topic, but perhaps it is not clear to some that the referendum has been disrespected and the constitution has no legitimacy.

What was the referendum about? The answer is not as complex as some people make it out to be. It was a referendum to change eight articles of the 1971 constitution. Argue what you will about what you thought it was, that is what was written and that is what you signed. It wasn’t about Article 2 of the constitution as some made it out to be and it wasn’t about the legitimacy of the Supreme  Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) as others claim. It was all written in the document signed by millions of Egyptians.
It makes no sense to argue that the referendum was something other than was written. Why would it be? Why would they not write what it truly was? If you signed a cheque for a million pounds, is it a valid argument to claim that you were told it meant a hundred pounds? It would only make sense if you hadn’t read what you signed, and that would be foolish anyway.
The reason we have to be crystal clear about what the referendum was about is to understand whether it was respected or not. The truth, plain and simple: It was not.
What was supposed to happen?
Had the referendum been respected, the ’71 constitution would have been brought back to life with the eight articles amended and any contradiction removed. This meant, however, that the head of the constitutional court would take charge of Egypt, something the SCAF would never allow.
Assuming for a ludicrous moment that respecting the referendum meant a new constitutional declaration that nullifies the ’71 constitution, what would it entail? It would mean adding articles from ’71 constitution along with the eight new articles voted in. Even though this scenario would have contradicted the text in the referendum, it still would have been acceptable.
What actually happened?
What actually happened is nothing short of a disaster. The SCAF added seven of the eight articles voted in by Egyptians, altered one of them and declared a new constitution. They added a grand total of 57 more articles that no one agreed to or was aware of. Although many articles were compliant with the dreaded ’71 constitution, the number of crucial and dictatorial articles added was almost as many as those voted on.
The real disaster however is article 56, which grants the SCAF the powers of a dictator. The article states:
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces deals with the administration of the affairs of the country. To achieve this, it has directly the following authorities:
1)      Legislation
2)      Issuing public policy for the state and the public budget and ensuring its implementation
3)      Appointing the appointed members of the People’s Assembly
4)      Calling the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council to enter into normal session, adjourn, or hold an extraordinary session, and adjourn said session.
5)      The right to promulgate laws or object to them.
6)      Represent the state domestically and abroad, sign international treaties and agreements, and be considered a part of the legal system of the state.
7)      Appoint the head of the cabinet and his/her deputies and ministers and their deputies, as well as relieve them of their duties.
8)      Appoint civilian and military employees and political representatives, as well as dismiss them according to the law; accredit foreign political representatives.
9)      Pardon or reduce punishment, though blanket amnesty is granted only by law.
10)   Other authorities and responsibilities as determined by the president of the republic pursuant to laws and regulations. The Council shall have the power to delegate its head or one of its members to take on its responsibilities.
I am quite certain that if a law suit were to be filed against the SCAF for their actions in disrespecting the referendum, the court would rule against them. However, as things stand, the SCAF control everything and so fairness is not an option.
Other articles that were not part of the referendum or the 1971 constitution are 57, 58, 59, 61, 62. Article 189 was transformed into article 60 with changes contrary to the referendum which accepted the article as it was.
What does it all mean?
The intentional disrespect of a nationwide referendum is symptomatic of a dictatorship that did not end with the fall of Mubarak. If a person’s vote has not been respected in a referendum that the SCAF itself designed, then how will it be respected in the upcoming elections?
Those calling for a constitution before elections are not disrespecting the referendum in any way. It is the SCAF that disrespected the referendum, the revolution and the entire country. These are greedy men who will never relinquish control.

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