Tarek Al Bishry is an Egyptian thinker and Judge, considered one of Egypt’s top legal minds. He was born in Cairo on November 1, 1933. His grandfather, Salim Al Bishry, was shaykh of Al Azhar from 1900–1904 and 1909-1916. His father, ‘Abd al-Fattah Al Bishry, was president of the Egyptian Court of Appeal until his death in 1951.
On February 15, 2011 Al Bishry was appointed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to head the committee set up to propose constitutional changes in the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.
Al Bishry was a secular leftist but became a prominent “moderate Islamic” political thinker, which gained him respect as a bridge between the movements.
The matter at hand during this difficult time, which began with the events on June 30 2013 and culminated in a military coup on July 3 2013, is not the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and whether or not they will remain in power. It is in fact a matter of the democratic constitutional system which was a result of the January 25 revolution, and whether Egypt will preserve this system or if it will nip it in the bud, replacing it with the military coup that put Egypt under a new dictatorship that will last for decades to come.
The observation of events since July 3 indicates that we are facing an action carried out by the Armed Forces leadership and announced by the Commander in Chief and the Minister of Defence after a political meeting with some religious and political figures they had chosen to support. They announced the disablement of the constitution agreed upon by the Egyptian people and received 63.6 per cent of votes in a free and fair polling. Moreover, an interim president of Egypt was appointed, while the constitutional president elected in the fair and free presidential elections carried out by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, is isolated. The coup leader gave the appointed interim president the authority to issue constitutional declarations, and this is in effect for an indefinite period of time by a ministry that has not yet been formed and has decided to arrest the president. We have become a country without a constitution or recognised ruling system.
The question at hand is; what was the military coup if it wasn’t actually a military coup?
It has been said that the matter was about overthrowing the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, but the parliamentary elections, in accordance with the new constitution, were on the verge of being held. They were scheduled to take place at the beginning of June if it weren’t for the opposition’s call to invalidate the decision for elections, which was accepted by the court on grounds of formalities. However, they seemed legal except for some details concerning the electoral law, and even these obstacles were on the verge of being resolved and becoming part of the law, and the elections were close to being held. Moreover, it cannot be said that the Brotherhood would’ve taken control of the state’s agencies and institutions to ensure the results of the elections would be in their favour, because the facts of the coup that recently occurred prove that the state’s administration and security devices were not under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood no matter how hard they tried.
The significance of a non-Brotherhood majority in the upcoming parliament, which is expected due to the decreased popularity of the Brotherhood after coming into office (at the height of their popularity in late 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood had less than 40 per cent of the parliamentary seats and the president, a Brotherhood candidate, received 25 per cent of the votes in the first round and only 51.7 per cent of the votes in the second round against him and Ahmed Shafik) is that their decreased popularity in the upcoming elections would mean that the ministry would be formed without them, or that they would not have the majority vote.
The 2012 constitution, which was disabled by the July 3 2013 coup, gives the ministry supported by the parliament almost full authority in policy-making and the management of the country’s affairs, far more than the president’s powers. Moreover, this constitution dictates that the ministry overrules the president regarding the issuance of resolutions.
It was all on the verge of being put into effect in accordance with the constitution and sound constitutional procedures, but it was not. Moreover, the leaders of the armed forces moved to declare the suspension of the constitution and the country is, once again, in a state of governance that is neither constitutional nor democratic.
It may be said that the action of the Armed Forces leadership was a result of the people’s movement that took place on June 30, and that the movement was similar to that of the January 25 2011 revolution. This comparison is corrupt and untrue because the movement of the people on January 25 was a unified political action agreed upon by the people with one demand; the removal of Hosni Mubarak and his supporters from government and the establishment of a democratic system, while restoring the people’s liberties. Hence, with this unified demand, the Armed Forces had the right to take action in response to the people’s undisputed consensus.
As for now, the movement on June 30 2013 was an action divided among the masses gathered in Tahrir Square who opposed the government of the elected president, and the masses gathered in Rabaa Adaweya Square who supported the current elected president and his ministry and demanded he remain in power. This divided action between two different groups with opposing goals and demands can only be resolved through elections in accordance with the constitution. There is no justification for the Armed Forces to intervene and resolve the issue in favour of one side or the other, as this would be considered a partisan act in which it would support one political party over the other, and the Armed Forces is prohibited from engaging in politics. Such action would be far from the people’s interests and the preservation of national security, rather being biased towards one party over another and towards internal policies over others, which is be considered a coup.
At the moment we are not facing a battle between the Muslim Brotherhood in power and their opponents, because this battle could have been resolved in accordance with the 2012 constitution through parliamentary elections and what it will result in, including a ministerial formation that reflects the people’s true support for each of the feuding groups.
We are, however, facing a battle concerning democracy and the constitution, which relapsed due to the coup carried out by the Armed Forces leadership. This leadership took advantage of the popular opposition against the Muslim Brotherhood, and drove them to support it in the battle of killing the spirit of the January 25 2011 revolution, along with constitutional democracy, and to take us back to the brutal totalitarian regime.
I believe that the armed forces themselves, its men and people, are innocent of this, because they took to the streets based on orders from their leaders and took control of the country’s facilities, not to carry out a military coup, but to secure the facilities and the group of Egyptians who were expected to take action on June 30 in order for them not to be infiltrated with vandals. However, their leader took advantage of this action and gave it other political implications related to demolishment of the constitutional democratic system the Egyptians built. However, the leaders of the coup did not realize that by disabling the constitution and dismissing the President they brought down the ministry, whose leader would possess the legitimate authority of making orders.
The people must realize that their present quest does not concern the restoration of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule, but the defence of the constitution and the democratic system. Moreover, they must make a political choice, not between supporting the Muslim Brotherhood or their opponents, but between defending democracy and supporting a dictatorship.
And to those who are now seeking to bridge the gap between the points of view, I have been asked by many to address this matter and contribute to it, and I say we are facing a dilemma, which is the fact that it is almost impossible for those who resort to a military coup to abandon it because their personal fate has become linked to the fate of the coup. Furthermore, to those who want to give up some constitutional democratic matter to avoid a physical coup, I say that this will create a dangerous constitutional precedent that will always threaten the democratic system, and creates the potential for forces to take action at any time to impose any of its demands in light of a political crisis, which was experienced by other countries, such as Turkey, Latin America, and Africa for decades.
May God save Egypt from this fate.
The author is an Egyptian constitutional expert. This article is a translation of the Arabic text which appeared in Shorouk Newspaper on 10 July, 2013
- The current conflict is between democracy, governance, and the military coup; not the Brotherhood and the opposition (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Morsi loyalists vow to fight on (bbc.co.uk)
- Demonizing Muslim Brotherhood (azeemamu.wordpress.com)
- Brotherhood rejects vote timetable (morningstaronline.co.uk)
- Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood vows to continue protests (foxnews.com)
- TIME Cover Story: What’s Next for Egypt’s Turbulent Revolution (world.time.com)
- Muslim Brotherhood Kept Christians From Voting at Gunpoint (vineoflifenews.com)
- Mideast Media Sampler 07/09/2013 (belated) (yourish.com)
- Lessons on Liberty from Egypt (frontporchphilosopher.wordpress.com)
- Muslim Brotherhood presses US to declare military takeover a ‘coup’ (thehill.com)