12.01.2006

Egypt Democracy Watch

Here are the recent news and developments concerning the political life and democratic stirring in Egypt gathered from the Egypt Monitor.

Egypt watch is of extreme importance to the Middle East democratization research. For my comment on this subject go to Arab Democracy and Egypt Paradigm.

Previous "Egypt Democracy Watch":

July 2006

October 2006

Egypt Democracy Watch:
(Covers the latest two months)


Opposition Parties on Constitutional Reforms

Three opposition parties decided to have a common realistic stands on constitutional reforms. The liberal Wafd, Leftist Tagammu Party and Arab Nationalist Nasserite Party decided to present their proposed constitutional amendments. All three parties maintained that the best solution would be to elect an assembly to draft a new constitution. However, if the regime refuses this option, they also presented a vision for amending the current constitution. All three parties agree on amending the following articles:

1- Article 40 to 63: should be maintained as they deal with public liberties, rights and duties of citizens.

2- Article 74: should be canceled altogether as it gives the president of the republic exceptional powers in case he/she sees that national unity or social peace are in danger.

3- Article 76: should be modified to facilitate the candidacy to the presidency of the republic instead of being an article that restricts candidacy.

4- Article 77: should be reversed to the pre-1980 constitutional amendment by limiting the terms of the president of republic to two terms instead of the current unlimited number of terms.

5- Article 88: avoiding any attempts at changing this article as it gives the judiciary the duty to oversee elections.

6- Articles 89: should be modified to force members of parliament to resign from any government or public sector position in case they are elected.

7- Article 93: strengthen the power of the judiciary- Court of "Cassation" and Higher Administrative Court- in issuing verdict in case of election irregularities in legislative elections.

8- Article 115: should be modified in a way to give the People's Assembly- Lower House- the power to modify the budget.

9- Article 127: should give the People's assembly the right to vote out the Prime minister and his cabinet without having the vote of no-confidence pending on the President's approval or popular referendum.

10- Articles 137/138: these two articles should be combined as have the president share his executive power with the prime minister.

11- Articles 147: should force the president of the republic, after approval of the the council of ministers, to get the opinion of the bureaus of one of the two houses of parliament before taking "urgent decisions".

12- Article 148: should be changed so that the president, after approval of the council of ministers, should consult with the Shura Council- Higher House- in case the People's Assembly- Lower House- is dissolved as soon as emergency law is declared. The emergency law should not exceed six month, to be extended for another six month after approval of the People's Assembly.

13- Article 173: cancellation of the Higher Council of Judicial Authorities as a way to confirm the independence of the judiciary.

14- Article 179: to cancel the Socialist Prosecutor, as a way to strengthen the unity of the judiciary and confirm the natural role of judges.

15- Article 194: should be modified as to give the Shura Council- Upper House- specific legislative powers.

16- The three political parties are calling for adding an article that would create a positive discrimination in favor of women, as to increase women's political participation.

17- The three parties are calling for adding an article that would enshrine the principal of proportional representation as a basic electoral system.


Labor Union Elections: Restriction on Opposition Workers

Authorities are preventing workers from the opposition to run as candidates in the Labor Union elections starting on November 12. Several workers from opposition parties and forces saw their names removed from candidates lists, while others where not able to access the necessary documents to become candidates. Several demonstrations took place to protest against the practices of the ministry of labor.

On another note, Aysha Abdel-Hadi, the minister of labor, refused a request from civil society organizations to monitor the electoral process, stated that Labor Unions in Egypt are 110 years old and are mature enough not to need any form of external monitoring of their activities. An opinion not shared by the opposition.


Ministry of Justice Puting Pressures on Judges

In an attempt to control and pressure the judges, the minister of justice, Mamdouh Marei, decided to use financial tool in order to domesticate independent judges. Marei decided to cut state subsidies to the Judge's Club (JC) as well as financial services provided to the JC such as loans to buy new cars. Judges see this as a revenge of the regime for the JC role in denouncing irregularities in legislative elections and for demanding the independence of the judiciary. Marei vowed to transform the politically active and powerful JC into a place where judges would drink tea and not challenge the regime. It is Worth adding that the minister of justice, appointed earlier this year, was the head of the presidential elections commission in 2005.


Tensions in Student Unions Elections

Tensions are rising on university campuses around the country as students prepare for Student Unions elections. Students accuse security apparatus on campus of interfering in elections and preventing students from choosing their true representative. Students also criticized the law of 1979 that prevents students from engaging in political activities and makes it illegal for political parties to be present on campuses. Students all over the country hold several demonstrations, and at time clashed with security forces.


Mubarak Agrees on Amending Article "76"

In a surprise move, president Mubarak gave an initial consent on amending controversial Article "76" of the constitution. This article was amending in 2005 to allow for the first ever multi-candidate presidential elections. However, the article also states that only parties with at least five percent of the seats in parliaments could run presidential candidates, as well as severe limitations on independent candidates. Opposition parties consider that the regime controls elections, hence control which party could get the five percent required to have a presidential candidate. Under the current dispositions, only the ruling national Democratic Party could have a candidate if presidential elections are to take place.

Mubarak declared that reforming Article "76" could pave the way for political parties to have candidates if presidential elections are to take place.


Ghad Party to Hold General Assembly

The Higher Committee of the Ghad- Tomorrow- Party will hold a meeting on November 23 to prepare for a general assembly that should vote for party reforms. The party has been led by Ambassador Ghatrifi since the detention of Ayman Nour, the party founder.


Resignations in the Nasserite Party

A number of Nasserite Party officials submited their resignation to join the Karama Party- a dynamic splinter of the Nasserite party still awaiting a license. The resignations are due to growing discontent with party leader Diaa el-Din Daoud blamed for the poor performance of the party.


Ruling Party MPs Against Quota for Women

A large number of member of parliament from the ruling National Democratic Party expressed their opposition to the creation of a quota for women in parliament. They maintained that men and women should be equal before the law, with no positive discrimination of one gender over the other. Creating extra quotas could complicate things as there already exists a 50 percent quota for farmers and workers in the parliament. However, they also stated that they could review their position if there is an increase in the number of seats in parliament, in which case they could even create a quota for youths under the age of 35.


Egypt Judges: Constitutional Reforms Should Protect Liberties

On October 4, Egypt's Judges declared that there should be a change of at least ten articles of the constitution, especially those dealing with the power of the president of the republic as well as the judiciary. They also stated that the articles related to to the supervision of the judiciary on elections should be maintained as they could protect a democratic system. The declarations came after a meeting of a committee of judges established for the study constitutional reforms.


Muslim Brotherhood Denies Internal Conflict

Dr. Mohamed Habib, first deputy-leader of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), denied allegations that there is a power struggle between him and the second deputy-leader Mohamed Khayrat al-Shatter. The latter represents the Upper Egypt- Southern Provinces- region power base of the MB and the alleged conflict was in regard to the limitation of the term of MB leader to two four year terms.


Muslim Bortherhood Leader Accuses Washington for Encouraging Persecution of Opposition

On October 4, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) hosted its annual banquet attended by 1500 guests and Representatives of all opposition forces and parties. In his address, Mahdi Akef, the MB leader, accused the United States of encouraging the Egyptian regime to persecute opposition activists and particularly MB members. He stressed the need for genuine constitutional reforms that would lead to political pluralism, peaceful change of government and true supervision of the judiciary over the electoral process. He also called for opening inquiries on torture and human right abuses of all Egyptian political detainees. He also expressed his fears that the government would amend the constitution in order to consolidate the regime's grip on power.


Wafd Party Calls for a New Constitution

In a meeting on October 2d, the Higher Committee (HC), highest authority of the opposition liberal Wafd party, called for drafting a new Egyptian constitution instead of amending the current one. The HC re-iterated the party's commitment for working with all opposition forces for the creation of a national compact on a new constitution. The HC also ordered the party's Constitutional Affairs Committee to prepare a report on this matter.

The Wafd leader, Mahmoud Abaza, declared that uniting the opposition on issue of the constitutional reform is the party's main priority. He also added that changing the constitution has been the party's main demand since 1978- year in which the Wafd was allowed to re-operate legally since it was banned after the 1952 military coup.


Muslim Brotherhood Considering Changing Slogan

Some leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) are discussing the possibility of changing the organization slogan. Since its inception in the 1920s the MB has used "Islam is the Solution" as a rallying cry, however some MB leaders consider that there is a need for a new rallying cry that would not exclude Christian citizens. The Koranic verse "And Hold Together to the Bond of God and Do Not Separate" could be a possibility as it would stresses national unity between Muslim and Christian citizens.


National Council for Human Rights on Constitutional Amendments

Members of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) disagreed on the council's suggested amendments. Some members insisted that the president and vice president of the republic should be elected on the same ticket, while other saw that it was not necessary to elect the vice-president. On the other hand, Bahei Eddine Hassan, member of the NCHR stated that it would be more practical to draft a new constitution rather than amending the current one since there is a need for replacing at least 25 percent of the articles of the current one.


Mubarak to Remain President as Long His Heart Beats

In his address to the opening new parliamentary session on November 19, president Mubarak ended speculations on a potential transfer of power to his son Gamal. In the president words "...I will continue with you [the people of Egypt] the crossing to the future, accepting responsability..as long as in my chest there will be a heart beat...". All political circles interpreted the remarks as Mubarak intention on staying in office as long as he is alive, as well a refusal to change Article 77 of the constitution that would limit presidential terms in office.


Opposition Agrees on Drafting a New Constitution

The National Front for Change (NFC), which includes the Kefaya Movement, Muslim Brotherhood, the Wafd Party, the Ghad Party, the Nasserite party and the Democratic Front Party, is working on drafting a new constitution. The project will take into account all work done so far by the opposition in terms of constitutional reform. The NFC will also take into account the project elaborated by al-Ghad - Tomorrow- party.


The National Democratic Party Holds Annual Conference

The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) held its fourth annual conference from September 19-21 in Cairo. The NDP discussed issues related to employment, investment, support of poor families, health care, transport, education, infrastructure and urban planing, youth and sport, as well as national security, citizenship and democracy. The conference was also attended by observers from other parties and foreign intellectuals.


The Alliance of Egyptian AmericansElects Woman of the Year and Holds Annual Conference

The Alliance of Egyptian Americans (AEA) elected the Egyptian Judge Dr. Noha al-Zini as 'Woman of the Year.' Dr al-Zini was recognized for having challenged the Egyptian regime for falsification of the parliamentary elections. The AEA also held its annual conference from September 15-17 and reiterated its commitment for political reforms in Egypt.


Annual General Conference of Egyptian Lawyers Call for More Liberties

The general conference of Egyptian lawyers that took place in the Mediterranean city of Port-Said from September 12-14 called for granting more political liberties. The conference called for strenghtening the judiciary, ending the emergency laws, canceling tribunals that are not under the control of the judiciary, as well as allowing for the creation of political parties.


Crisis Between the Two Houses of Parliament on Constitutional Reforms

The Shura Council (SC) - the higher house of parliament - and the People's Assembly (PA)- the lower house of parliament - endorsed different positions on constitutional reforms. Members of the SC wanted the constitutional reforms to enhance the status of the SC by giving it the right to initiate legislation and to question cabinet members. Under the current disposition, the SC has a consultative authority over legislation and oversees political parties and the press. The PA wants the constitutional amendment to increase the power of the PA but does not believe it necessary to increase the power of the other house of Parliament. This difference of opinion created a crisis between members of the two houses of parliament, both of which are dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party.


National Front to Oppose Dynastic Presidency

Several parties and political forces decided to create a national front to coordinate opposition efforts against attempts to transform Egypt into a dynastic presidency. This national front includes the liberal Wafd party, al-Ghad - Tomorrow - party, the Nasserite party and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The founding meeting took place in the Wafd party headquarters in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.


Censorship Authority Appoves Movie on the Muslim Brotherhood Founder

The censorship authority gave its initial approval to a movie on the life of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Hassan al-Banna. The approval followed a request from MB parliamentarian Mohsen Radi on behalf of the al-Banna family. The final approval for the movie is still pending on the agreement of the security authorities. Hassan al-Banna founded the MB in 1928 and was assassinated two decades later.


Egyptian Expatriates Might Vote In Next Presidential Elections

Aisha Abdel-Hadi, minister of labor and emigration, declared the the government is considering the possibility of allowing Egyptians residing abroad to vote in the next presidential elections. Under the current system Egyptians abroad are not allowed to cast their votes in any Egyptian elections. In the 2005 presidential elections the government was criticized for not allowing the four millions strong Egyptian community living abroad to vote.


Nasserite Party Absent from the Coalition of the Left

Leftist parties - legal and illegal - created a coalition in an effort to unify socialist and communist forces. The coalition is made of the Tagammu Party, Karama Party (which is illegal), People's Party (which is illegal), Egyptian Communist Party (which is illegal), the Justice Center for Political and Social Studies, and the Social Democratic Center. The Nasserite Party, which has a socialist platform based on late president Nasser's ideology, did not join the coalition. Refaat El-Saeed, leader of the Tagammu, the oldest legal leftist party, explained that the Nasserite party was invited and expected to join the coalition.

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Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism

Nassim Yaziji's perspective

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