Egypt Democracy Watch

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

Previous "Egypt Democracy Watch" on Middle East Policy:

December 2006

October 2006

July 2006

Egypt's Constitutional Amendments

Egypt Democracy Watch:
(Covers the latest four months)

Source: The Egypt Monitor

3500 Lawyers Trained to Monitor Elections

The National Council of Human Rights and the Egyptian Coalition for the Support of Democracy are training 3500 lawyers to monitor elections. The training is taking place throughout 2007 and aims at preparing monitors for the March 26 referendum on the constitutional amendments as well as the Shura Council partial elections due later this year.

Low Voter Turnout On the Referendum on the Constitution

On March 26, 2007 Egyptians voted on the referendum for amending 34 articles of the Constitution. According to the Egyptian authority the amendments were approved by 75 percent of the voters with a 27 percent participation. However, civil society organizations that monitored the referendum claim that the voter turnout did not exceed 3 percent of registered voters.

Courts Confirm Freezing Assets of Muslim Bortherhood Members

The Cairo Criminal Court confirmed the Attorney General's decision to freeze the assets of 29 prominent Members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and their families on February 28, 2007. The assets to be worth 1.8 Billion Egyption Pounds -- around U$ 315 million.

Wafd Party Asks the Nation to Reject the Constitutional Amendments

The Higher Committee of the Wafd party has officially rejected the constitutional amendments prepared by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). The party maintains that the changes will not be conducive to more freedom and that they tend to be a setback to democracy. The party vowed to coordinate its efforts with all opposition forces in opposing the changes.

Secretary General of the Lawyer Syndicate Opposes Constitutional Amendments

Ahmed Seif-El -Islam Al-Banna, secretary general of the Lawyer Syndicate, expressed his opposition to the constitutional amendments. According to Al-Banna the amendments will suppress political liberties and will not put Egypt on the path of democracy. Al-Banna is a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the son of Hassan Al-Banna- the founder of the MB in the 1920s.

Opposition Forces in parliament Reject Constitutional Changes

On March 12, 2007, all opposition parties and movements represented in parliament held a press conference in the headquarter of the Wafd party in which they officially opposed the constitutional amendments. The parties and movements represented were the liberal Wafd Party, the leftist Tagammu, the Arab nationalist Karam party, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Independent MPs. Mahmoud Abaza, the Wafd leader, read a statement in their name.

Security Forces Crushes Demonstartion Against Constitutional Amendments

On March 15, the security forces crushed the first main demonstration against the constitutional amendments. The protesters included activists from Kefaya as well all opposition movements and parties. The security forces arrested dozens of protesters and prevented hundred from reaching central Cairo. The protesters were demonstrating against the proposed constitutional amendments considering them not reflecting the hope of the Egyptian people in drafting a democratic constitution.

Opposition Calls for the Boycott of the Referendum on Constitution

All opposition parties and movements called for the boycott of the referendum on the constitutional amendments. The opposition maintains that the regime ignored all their demands on the constitutional amendments, including limiting the terms of the president, constitutional guarantees for free and fair elections and not to have an anti-terrorist law that would be harsher than the current emergency law. The opposition considers that these amendments betray the regime's promises for reforms.

Authorities Release Kefaya Protesters

The security forces released Kefaya activists who were under arrest on March 27,2007. Some activists were arrested shortly before the referendum on the constitution and were kept inside trucks in the desert near Cairo. Some protesters complained about the precarious sanitary conditions of their detention inside trucks.

Foreign History Curriculum banned from Foreign School

The ministry of education decided to ban the teaching of history from foreign curriculum in foreign schools operating in Egypt. The ministry considers that history should be thought according to the Egyptian curriculum to preserve the national identity. The decision was taken after the ministry realized that a foreign school history class was teaching that the pyramids were built by Hebrews.

Controversy Over Muslim Head Scarf

Comments made by Farouk Hosni, the veteran minister of culture, created uproar in the Egyptian parliament when he qualified the Muslim headscarf as being regressive. Hosni made the remarks while talking to a journalist, stating that previous generations of Egyptian women did not wear the headscarf and went to university. Members of parliaments affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the ruling National Democratic party joined forces in attacking the minister for his remarks and called on the minister to explain his comments in parliament. Hosni refused to come to parliament or to go to his office for a week until MP's apologize for their verbal attacks. Hosni ended up going to parliament and agreed that the ministry of culture would set up a committee for religious culture- it is not clear what will be the impact of this committee on the activities of the ministry of culture, many Egyptian intellectuals considered that such a committee is the cornerstone of theocratic regimes.

Members of the European Parliaments Meet with Muslim Brotherhood MPs

On November 22, a delegation of European Parliament concluded their visit to Egypt by meeting with members of parliament from the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The meeting took place in the MB headquarter in the Cairo district of Manial and discussions focused on the difficulties encountered by the MB to get legal recognition and function like other political parties.

Pharmacists Protest Against Treatment by Security Forces

On November 23, more than 10 000 pharmacists protested against bad treatment of pharmacists by security forces. The rally was part of the Pharmacist's Syndicate general assembly meeting. The Pharmacists threatened to go on strike if the police continues harassing them and mistreating them in police stations. Pharmacists qualified interference of the police in their trade as "illegal raids" to force them to change their position regarding the Pharmacist's syndicate refusal to sell state owned Egyptian drugs companies to foreign and Israeli investors.

No Change on Article 77 of the Constitution

According to the Wafd party newspapers, an undisclosed source from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) declared that the policy secretariat, led by Gamal Mubarak, is exerting pressures on NDP members not to ask for amending Article 77 of the constitution. In its current form, Article 77 states that there is no limitations to presidential terms. Reformers wish to see the Article amended to make it illegal for presidents to stay for more than two terms in office.

Government Report on the Deteriration of Education

A report of the National Council of Education issued a report stating that university education reached a high degree of deterioration in Egypt. The report claims that university graduates are undereducated and do not meet academic standards of modern education. Further, it stressed that free education became an empty slogan as many university students rely on private tutors to be able to acquire knowledge. The reports also states that the Egyptian government spends 743 US dollars per university student per year, around 1/10 of what developing countries spend and 1/50 of what developed countries spend on education.

Justice Minister: No to Cutting Subsidies on Judges Clubs

In an attempt to ease the tensions between Egypt's Judges and the executive, Mamdouh Marei, the minister of Justice, declared that there will be no cut in the government subsidies for the Judges Clubs (JC). He qualified attempts at pressuring the Judges using financial means as being mere rumors and that the executive branch is supportive of Egypt Judges. The Judges Club acts as a syndicate for the Egypt's Judges and have branches in all of Egypt's 26 provinces. The JC is in confrontation with the regime as the Judges call for the total independence of the judiciary.

First Woman Editor in Chief of an Opposition Newspaper

Farida Nakkash was appointed editor in chief of the Ahali newspaper, media organ of the "socialist" Tagammu party. Nakkash is a renowned activist and a fierce defender of women's rights. She is a journalist by training and a founding member of the Tagammu party in 1976. Nakkash declared that the newspaper will undergo many changes as to improve the main socialist newspaper in Egypt.

Muslim Brotherhood States that it has no Militia

Dr Mohamed Habib, first deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), declared the MB does not have a militia and does not aim to have one. He added that there are no training camps for MB members and that MB members are not even trained in martial arts. The statement came as a reaction to a newspaper report linking some violent activities in the university of al-Azhar students dormitory to the MB. Dr Habib said that the students acted on their own and that the MB rejects violent acts by students. However, Dr Habib reiterated students right to peaceful demonstrations and legal means to challenge the university administration.

Ayman Nour Starts a Hunger Strike

Ayman Nour, founder of al-Ghad- Tomorrow- party started a hunger strike on December 5. Nour is protesting against bad treatment by the authorities and the luck of medical support. Nour also issued a statement addressed to human rights organization in which he exposed the authorities violation of his constitutional and legal rights.


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