Constitutional Despotism in Egypt
by Stephen Lendman
Junta power runs Egypt. Democracy is verboten. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) rules.
Fascist generals control things. US-trained Abdul Fatah-al Sisi heads them. Interim civilian officials provide fig leaf cover.
A new constitution was drafted. It has no legitimacy whatever. More on its provisions below.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, a national referendum was held. Violence marred two days of voting.
Security forces killed 11 or more people. Dozens were injured. Numerous arrests were made. Police states operate this way. Egypt is one of the region’s worst.
The Carter Center made mixed comments. It sent a small delegation to Egypt. It didn’t observe voting. It focused solely “on the broader legal and political context of the ongoing transition.”
It did so knowing Egypt’s political process lacks legitimacy. Junta power runs things.
On Monday and Tuesday, Egyptians voted. They did so for the third time in less than three years.
On the one hand, the Carter Center expressed concern about “the polarized environment and the narrowed political space surrounding” referendum voting, “as well as the lack of an inclusive process for drafting and publicly debating the draft constitution.”
On the other, it said it’s “clear that many Egyptians view the constitutional referendum as an important opportunity to voice their opinion about the transition roadmap and the way forward.”
Police state rule is no way to do it. Nor is banning legitimate political parties. Regime opposition elements are criminalized. Public protests are banned.
Egypt’s anti-protest law is draconian. Overnight sit-ins are prohibited. So are public and private gatherings without official authorization.
A maximum of 10 people are allowed. Security forces have final say on all demonstrations. Anti-regime ones are strictly forbidden.
Violators face up to 10 years in prison. They can be fined up to 500,000 Egyptian pounds ($72,000).
The measure replaced the Mubarak era’s hated emergency law. Harsh crackdowns targeted opposition political groups. Human Right Watch (HRW) said the law “effectively bans protests.”
Security forces have “absolute discretion.” State-sponsored force is permitted. So is violence. Junta power strangled what’s left of independent life in Egypt.
None whatever exists. SCAF maintains supreme power. It wields it abusively. It’s eliminating opposition elements. Washington provides support.
Congressional budget legislation includes $1.3 billion in military aid. Another $250 million was approved for economic help.
Mumbo jumbo language tied funding to supporting US interests. They include Israeli ones. A democratic facade only is required.
Real democracy doesn’t matter. Washington abhors it at home and abroad. SCAF prohibits it.
Washington Post editors surprised. Rare opinions are responsible. On January 13, they headlined “Egypt’s bogus democracy doesn’t deserve US aid,” saying:
“EGYPT’S MILITARY regime is taking a major step this week toward installing an autocracy more repressive than any the country has known in decades.”
General al-Sisi maintains coup d’etat authority. He called strong support for Egypt’s new constitution “a mandate to become Egypt’s next president,” said WaPo editors.
Referendum voting “is being staged in a climate that makes a fair ballot impossible.”
Opposition elements are targeted for elimination. Brute force is used to do it. Islamists and “secular pro-democracy leaders are being targeted.”
Opposition media are banned. They’re shut down. Three Cairo-based Al Jazeera journalists were imprisoned without charge.
Fascists run Egypt. It’s “obvious” that al-Sisi-style democracy is none at all. It’s “no more than fig leaf covering the restoration of” pre-Morsi rule.
It’s “a more malignant form.” Obama ignores ongoing repression. Militarized brutality suggests worse ahead.
If “Obama believes (America) should sanction” Egyptian police state rule, “he should make the case for doing so,” said WaPo editors.
“Otherwise (he) should side with those Egyptians who continue to fight for a genuine democracy – starting with those who have been imprisoned.”
Egyptian democracy is nonexistent. Fascist constitutional law prohibits it. Illegitimate parliamentary and presidential elections will rubber-stamp tyranny.
They’re scheduled for later this year. No dates are set. They’ll have no legitimacy when held. Opposition parties are either banned or rendered impotent.
Last September, a SCAF-controlled court outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Doing so deprived Egyptian Islamists of legitimate representation.
MB is SCAF’s only credible challenger. Judge Mohammed al-Sayed ruled for the regime.
He announced a “ban (on) the Muslim Brotherhood and its non-governmental organizations and all the activities that it participates in and any organization derived from it.”
MB’s Freedom and Justice party candidates can’t participate in parliamentary and presidential elections. They’re criminalized.
In December, Egypt’s coup d’etat government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. It did so illegitimately.
SCAF viciousness crippled MB. Hundreds of its members were arrested. Many others were killed. Scores were injured.
Security forces use live ammunition against protesters. Nonviolent ones are shot, killed or wounded.
Since toppling President Mohamed Morsi last July, SCAF declared war on “terrorism.” Legitimate opposition elements are targeted. Muslim Brotherhood influence is being eliminated.
State-sponsored terror is official policy. Over 1,500 coup opponents were killed. MB officials face kangaroo court injustice. Morsi faces potential life in prison.
All regime opponents are threatened. Democracy is incompatible with coup d’ etat rule. Illegitimate elections won’t improve it.
IKHWANWEB is MB’s official English language web site. On January 8, its press release headlined “British Egyptians Reject Military-Backed Constitution.”
Junta leaders urged them vote on Egypt’s illegitimate constitution.
“British Egyptians for Democracy (BE4D) asserts its complete rejection of this constitution,” said IKHWANWEB.
It “was written under an oppressive military rule that has thus far claimed thousands of innocent lives, detained innocent civilians and committed the worst human rights violations in the modern history of Egypt.”
“The atmosphere of fear and repression that has been established as a result of the military’s takeover is in no way conducive of free and fair elections.”
“The fact that several international monitors have refused to monitor the upcoming referendum is a testament to this.”
The Carter Center is one of them. MB called on Egyptian ex pats to boycott referendum voting.
It urged them “to join activities outside their embassies to condemn the military’s human rights violations.”
It called on all Egyptians to boycott the vote. Constitutional illegitimacy runs counter to democracy. So does coup d’etat rule.
On January 9, MB’s Freedom and Justice party (FJP) headlined “Junta Rigging Referendum Results.”
Putschists drafted Egypt’s new constitution. Procedures are rigged. Transparency is nonexistent.
Expect “forgery in its worst and ugliest form,” said FJP. Egyptians voted in any polling station they wished.
They could “vote over and over again.” Authorities want illegitimacy legitimized.
Referendum voting was a sham. The Freedom and Justice Party urged Egyptians to reject it.
Constitutional provisions legitimize despotism. They continue military rule.
Except for Morsi’s short-lived government, it’s run Egypt since Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Free Officers coup.
Junta constitutional provisions exceed the worst of the 1971 document. They permitted dictatorial Mubarak rule.
SCAF’s constitution gives junta power legal status. It establishes a state within a state. It does so illegitimately.
Under Article 234, SCAF may elevate Egypt’s Defense Minister to president. Al-Sisi is military commander-in-chief and defense chief. So-called elections assure rubber-stamping his authority.
Article 203 gives National Defense Council SCAF and intelligence officials sole authority over military budgets.
Civil law is null and void. Civilians may be tried in military courts. Police state justice is certain.
Article 204 permits civilians tried for “crimes that represent direct assault on military establishment, the armed forces’ camps and the like, or the military areas or its border zones, its equipment, vehicles, weapons, ammunitions, documents, military secrets, public funds, factories, or crimes related to conscription or crimes that constitute a direct assault against its officers and personnel while performing their work.”
In other words, they can be prosecuted and imprisoned for any reasons coup authorities decide. They can face longterm imprisonment. They can be murdered or disappeared.
Anti-regime opponents are vulnerable. So are human rights workers, pro-democracy supporters and independent journalists.
Expect workers wanting living wages to be targeted. Strikes can be declared illegal. Leaders may be arrested. Rank-and-file workers are vulnerable.
Junta constitutional powers include greater police state apparatus authority. Free expression is criminalized. Forceful police and military dispersals are permitted.
Fighting nonexistent terrorism is mandated. Doing so targets legitimate anti-regime elements. Islamist political organizations and parties are banned.
Egypt’s new constitution legitimizes police state rule. Democracy is verboten. It’s prohibited.
The worst of militarized repression is certain. It’s ongoing. It won’t end. Junta power ruthlessness assures tyranny. Expect full Washington support.
A Final Comment
As expected, the new constitution was approved. SCAF announced a 98% “yes” vote. Claiming it is meaningless.
Government and Muslim Brotherhood sources expressed opposite views on voter turnout. An interim president’s office statement claimed:
“Egyptians are coming out in great numbers to enthusiastically participate in this historic process.” Near final announced participation was around 33%.
The Muslim Brotherhood-led Anti-Coup and Pro-Democracy Alliance said:
“Participation in the sham referendum was low in Cairo and Lower Egypt, and even lower in Upper Egypt, reaching between 5 and 10 percent of registered voters, at the most…”
It cited “careful monitoring” in all provinces. It accused SCAF of “systematic forgery, fraud and manipulation of voter rates.”
Ex pat voting was reported very low. Saudi Arabia is home to over 300,000 Egyptian expatriates. It’s around 45% of the global total.
Junta controlled Al-Ahram reported less than 24,000 votes cast – an 8% turnout. It expected about 15% overall ex pat participation.
Egypt has about 53 million eligible voters. Morsi’s December 2012 constitution got two-thirds support. Turnout was only about 33%.
If Muslim Brotherhood monitors are right, it’s lower this time. Junta leaders needed strong participation for legitimacy. They had every incentive to manipulate numbers to claim it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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