Monday, December 24, 2012

Rebuttal of Guardian's "Egypt: building on sand"

One of the few instances where I took the time to write a point by point rebuttal of a very flawed editorial published in the the Guardian. Lately their editorials have been terribly flawed and have ignored the reporting published in their own paper which is far more accurate and on point.

Egypt: building on sand

The irony of having won this particular constitutional battle is that Morsi has emerged from it with weaker powers

Not all founding fathers are as fondly remembered as America's. The three men who carved up the Soviet Union in Stalin's hunting lodge in Belovezhskaya forest are not today revered as scions of a new order.Egypt's constitution, which appeared to have been passed on Sunday by 64%, has also had a turbulent birth. The result itself came from a low turnout and there were claims of election fraud. The crisis started when Egypt's Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, awarded himself the power to push through a draft that had not been agreed, prompting a stream of resignations.
That's not where the problem started, that's when it became evident. The problem started with the very important promises which Morsi made and broke, such as a new representative constituent assembly and a consensus constitution. He also sidelined all other political forces as well as a great many of his presidential team.
He said it was to stop the constitutional court from declaring the whole exercise null and void, but the judiciary revolted as a result. 
Is what he said enough to do away with very legitimate concerns about the decree? Furthermore it is not only the constituent assembly that he protected but Shura Council as well. He also appointed a biased General Prosecutor.  What did he have to say about all of this? 
Clashes between rival armed groups ensued :  
very inaccurate to describe it that way, but more importantly misleading 
up to 2 million Christians voted against the referendum and some leaders called for the president's removal. If this is a victory, it has been a costly one. 
Now if I knew nothing about Egypt, this would be a very strange way to express what happened after, for starters, which leaders asked for his removal? It was the people on the streets but 'leaders' had only asked him to rescind his declaration before negotiations. If there's something I'm missing about leadership and their calls let me know. Not to mention the 2 million votes from Christians implies that this constitution angered Christians. It could have been to indicate the split in that department but it is ambiguous, paints an incomplete picture and it's shallow. 
The revolutionary unity seen fleetingly in Tahrir Square has been shattered. 
How about the new unity found? What unity in Tahrir had been shattered? It was not a result of this declaration but two long years of splits between islamists and all other forces, if anything there was a new unity with people who hardly left their 'couch'.
Mr Morsi was accused of behaving like a military dictator, 
He was accused of behaving like a dictator, not particularly of the military sort, but having legislative  and executive powers and putting himself above judiciary oversight is just an accusation? Particularly that he would not back down and hadn't rescinded his decrees but only the 'declaration?
but the irony of having won this particular constitutional battle is that he has emerged from it with weaker powers. 
Morsi the poor martyr, the constitution gives him less powers, leaves him all alone without a vice president and without powers. Sarcasm aside, how is that an honest statement? The problem with Morsi is the control of a group over the country not just particularly himself, where in this editorial does it point to that real problem of the MB guidance council ruling instead of even just Morsi? It is also naive to think that appointments where he signs his name detracts power considering how much pressure he can apply through other powers he has through the constitution
Under the terms of the new constitution, he cannot interfere with any judicial appointment but only sign the names offered to him by the supreme judicial council. His legislative powers revert to the upper house of parliament, the Shura council, pending the elections of the lower house. This is loaded in favour of the Islamists and Mr Morsi will struggle to make it more representative even by nominating more members of the Coptic orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches to it, as he did on Sunday. But he has promised to put amendments to the controversial articles of the constitution to the first session of parliament, if agreement can be reached between the major political parties.
See previous statement about Shura council, the word struggle is true but not in the sense implied by this writer. The statement sounds as though he were not responsible for the situation we're all in. We've seen all the promises of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, they mean nothing. Also ignored is the fact  he could have called off the referendum but was more interested in getting passed in any way, breaking the promise of not putting it up for a public referendum without consensus, clearly there wasn't. People didn't even make it to 67% agreement which was the minimum for the constituent assembly, meaning that it wasn't representative, an important point while trying to make it out that Morsi is trying reach an agreement.
In his wish to speedily install a new order, Mr Morsi cut corners, at times dangerously. His emergency decree overriding all judicial oversight was cast much too wide. Verbal violence soon became physical after a tent encampment outside the presidential palace was broken up violently.  The opposition claimed they were beaten, detained and tortured. The Muslim Brotherhood insist they were shot at hours later. These scenes were a disaster for a president who has vowed to represent not just Islamist Egypt but all Egypt.
Who broke it up? Not mentioned, also the opposition claim and the MB insist, fine if you're going to take sides, but at least make it clear that Morsi's MB men called for this break up and their supporters actually executed it, meaning the president and his group were directly responsible, this article makes it out like these events just happened spontaneously. The scenes were prompted by political action, not just an accident like the train hitting the Assuit. This is an important distinction as it is affects the picture painted by this editorial. It's an opinion, but making the facts ambiguous to drive a point is either ignorant or dishonest.
The polarisation is not likely to lessen with these results.
To be fair that's the one thing in the entire piece that may not be misleading. 
Despite the low turnout, the Brotherhood will claim 64% as a decisive victory. Mr Morsi has seen his vote go up in some areas of the country that voted for his rival Mr Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential election. For the secularist and liberal opposition, and many outside observers, the most telling statistic was the low turnout. It means the grand foundational text of the new Egypt is only actively supported by about one in five of the electorate. The decision of Egypt's Coptic church to call for a no vote, 
The church asks their constituency to participate, unsure when they called for no, but even if they did, why is it not mentioned that they were not involved in writing the constitution pulling out after their input was ignored? It's not the duty of the writer to write all the facts, but those that are relevant an help. That aside, it doesn't make sense to single them out as calling for that no vote, even Abdel Monem Abol Fottouh called for it, along with numerous other forces in the country. This in relationship to the next line also seems to push forward the idea put forward by the Muslim Brotherhood that Christians are the main actors behind the opposition.
at a time when the imams held back, 
Factually not true, see Alexandria Mosque one week prior and see Imam who was transferred from his post because he refused to support the constitution, this is not just a biased opinion, it's a lie.
is a sign of deep tensions. After such a decision, it becomes easier to characterise the polarisation as a religious one. 
If the facts are untrue, the conclusion is flawed.
Such a result might add weight to the view that the conflict was not about an Islamist constitution, but about two very different visions of society: a defined identity-based project to see a more Islamised Egypt; and a more pluralist vision of a democracy, with multiple identities. But the problem is also a practical one. No one behaved as if they wanted to build a pluralist society. 
Add weight to the view, so flawed information which leads to a flawed conclusion is all to add weight to this idea? Also no one behaved as if they wanted a pluralist society? Liberals have long accepted Article 2 of the constitution? Saying 'no one' is a very weak argument.  When you say both sides are wrong, you're covering up for one of them, usually the stronger side. Other sides weren't given a chance. Also remember that El Baradie was inclusive about including the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian Association for change despite everything.
The art of compromise was not much in evidence. Mr Morsi started out with the intention of creating a broad tent involving minorities – but that approach also depended on the ability to keep everyone inside that tent. The last few months have made that increasingly difficult. The one hope is that this result encourages both side to fight the parliamentary elections.
What is he driving at? Honestly I just don't understand the reasoning, how does polarisation turn into hope through fighting for parliamentary elections. Why is there a message to move on about the constitution despite fraud  which the writer himself mentioned and more importantly no consensus? How can a society split up moved past a non consensus constitution with a low turn out and low percentage in favor at that?
President Morsi's task is now clear. 
Clear to who?
It is not to entrench the divide but to reach across it to all Egyptians, Christian or Muslim, secular or religious, liberal or conservative. 
The entire piece ignores Morsi's role in all this.He took measures to divide in the first place as if it were his task, so how is it clear that his task has now changed?
 Mr Morsi's will have only established a constitution worthy of the name when that happens. 
Has the writer even read the constitution? The constitution itself helps widen the gap, the Christians he wishes to bring closer were not consulted, the MB have issued statements accusing them of being at the protests and being behind all opposition and the No votes. This is on their official site. The writer can pretend that the constitution articles have nothing to do with it, this is something I can only disagree with and it would be unfair of me to put it in the category of inaccurate facts but rather laziness or poor reasoning. Overall, aside from the factual inaccuracies, unreasonable conclusions and the generally poor quality, this editorial paints a very inaccurate simplistic picture, awfully close to propaganda.

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