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Review: Authority, legitimacy and the rule of law

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The failed ouster of Abdel Meguid Mahmoud and the violence in Tahrir Sqaure dominate the Arabic opinion columns. The office of the president takes a bashing, as more than one writer wonders who is really in control.

Presidency Decisions

Ibrahim Mansour

Al-Tahrir

Mansour asks who the real decision maker is in the office of the president. Is it really Mohamed Morsy? Is it the Muslim Brotherhood? Could it be the Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood, Khairat El-Shater? Or the mysterious and numerous presidential advisers?

The question needs to be answered, writes Mansour, in light of a series of poor decisions made in the name of the presidential office. The recent debacle of Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, (the attorney general and Mubarak –era establishment figure who refused to be sent to off to Rome as the Vatican envoy), is the latest ill-judged decision. It stands alongside attempts to recall the People’s Assembly, before it was eventually permanently dissolved.

It seems the president’s office is making consistently poor choices and trying to explain itself with contradictory messages. It makes a mockery of the office and of Mohamed Morsy himself, to the extent that his frequently repeated slogan “We want a new Egypt” is beginning to sound absurd.

Mansour bemoans the lack of transparency and wonders; if the presidential advisers (read Muslim Brotherhood lackeys) are behind these embarrassments, why are they still in their positions?

The reputation of Egypt’s executive office is being dragged through the mud, and worse still, it is barely distinguishable from the days of Mubarak. It is still an opaque, corrupt institution. Morsy’s presidential convoy is just as grandiose, and he’s even had security gates fitted to his preferred mosque.

Mansour does not pretend to know who is really making decisions behind the scenes, but the lack of transparency and evident similarities with Mubarak’s regime are his main thrust. It is as if only the name of the president has changed, nothing more.

Muslim Brotherhood thuggery against judiciary and protesters

Mohammed Abul-Ghar

Al-Masry Al-Youm

In a fairly predictable and boring piece, Abul-Ghar talks at length about the sanctity of the judiciary. He is concerned with the direction of post-revolutionary Egypt and alarmed by the case of Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, our embattled attorney general, as it could easily have created a dangerous precedent; attacks on the legal system that do Egyptians no favours.

He recounts the build up to last Friday’s clashes in and around Tahrir Square; making clear that the politically minded youth groups publicised their planned protest against the make-up of the political assembly weeks beforehand . At very short notice the Muslim Brotherhood hijacked the protest, angered by the acquittals of those implicated in the Battle of the Camel, and calling for the speedy removal of Mahmoud. The Brotherhood then caused havoc in Tahrir before being encouraged by their leadership to attack court buildings.

This, for Abul-Ghar, is a gross insult to the legal system and the judiciary. The removal of Mahmoud would also constitute an attack on due legal process, whatever the reasons behind such a move.

He recalls the 1950s, recounting a story of a judge being beaten by Brotherhood agitators, hectoring a Dr Sanhoury. Head of the Constituent Assembly, Hossam Ghariany, was apparently fearful of a similar attack being visited on him. This state of affairs chills Abul-Ghar.

Judges, lawyers and all representatives of the legal system, ought to stand together against these attacks, because to be silent is to accept their fate and be cowed by a Brotherhood which behaves as though Egypt is its private property.

In a curious aside, Abul-Ghar claims that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in reality run by Osamma Hadad and that the minister is mere decoration. Indeed foreign diplomats have apparently started talking directly to Hadad. So why don’t they just make him minister?

What if?

Amr Al-Shoubaky

Al-Masry Al-Youm

 

Shoubaky draws on several historical examples to make an elaborate but impressive point.

Morsy’s u-turn on his attempt to oust the attorney general was forced by public opinion and the strong will of the judiciary. Which, on balance is a good thing despite, or perhaps because of, Mahmoud’s connections to the old guard.

Mahmoud’s removal would be a strong act and totally in keeping with the spirit of the revolution, but it cannot be enforced on a whim. It must come as the result of due process, gaining legitimacy from the rule of law, and not from revolutionary fervour.

Shoubaky’s point is that you can make legal decisions and revolutionary decisions, but you must be consistent in your decision making.  Most people still think of revolutions as a change that fixes society, but around the world there have been many revolutions that have simply started the ball rolling. Legal process always ended up as the basis of a new system.

Shoubaky cites the Iranian Revolution, communist Russia and China, and the French Revolution as stalled victories. In those systems, the revolutionaries ruled with revolutionary spirit, bringing down their former rulers and sparing no one. Then, they began to attack the people who disagreed with their new rule. Democracy did not spring (immediately) from these revolutions.

Democracy comes from the rule of law, not through revolutionary rhetoric.  The removal of Mahmoud is identical to the Brotherhood beating up protesters and youth, as it is based on a kind of revolutionary legitimacy.

So Shoubaky warns, vengeance must not be allowed in to the new Egypt. Morsy was elected legally and must stick to this brand of legal legitimacy.

The solution to this recent farrago is a new law to alter the judiciary. Egypt needs a proper legal system; we don’t need to behead people, simply set up fair trial procedures.

In the end Shoubaky laments a lack of willingness to learn from others. Similar changes have taken place in South Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe, where they dismantled old regimes comprehensively and legally. These are the successful revolutions.


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