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Who needs a constitution?

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Sara Abou Bakr

Sara Abou Bakr

It’s a running joke in the political circuits in developing countries: “Who needs a constitution over here?”

Currently in Egypt, the joke has turned sour.

Three years, six cabinets (not counting the reshuffles), two Constituent Assemblies and two constitutions after the 25 January Revolution, Egypt remains a country not bothered by its own governing laws.

On Saturday, the presidency announced that no appeals would be allowed on decisions taken by the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC), responsible for governing all procedures pertaining to elections in the country – both parliamentary and presidential.

Article 97 in the current constitution says that “litigation is a protected right, allowed to all…immunising any action from the scrutiny of the judiciary is prohibited…”

The article is quite clear. No one is above the law, not even the SEC. Every action, in a country where law is preserved, can be tried by the judiciary. But, unfortunately, in developing countries where laws can be tailor-made to fit the ruler, a constitution is a trifle matter.

What is quite interesting is the fact that the SEC consists of five of the highest ranking judges in the country. This committee has among itself a combined experience of over 200 years. Their decision cannot be a novice mistake nor can it be blamed for obscure constitutional text. Even more baffling is the fact that the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court – the body where appeals against decisions of the SEC should have been deliberated –is a member of the SEC!

Ali Awad, the constitutional adviser to interim president Adly Manosur who announced the controversial decision on Saturday, said that the matter was decided upon among contention between the legal minds involoved.

If this decision was so controversial  among \ the most experienced legal minds in Egypt could not unanimously agree upon, why announce it now and right before the much anticipated presidential elections?

Why does the SEC, which will oversee the next presidential elections, need to immunise its decisions against the judiciary?

Constitutional experts have been rabid since Saturday in criticising the decision, deeming it unconstitutional and groundless. This includes Raafat Fouda, who told Daily News Egypt that the decision has shown a lack of respect for the constitution on part of those who are responsible for it. He added that former President Mohamed Morsi is being tried for disrespecting the judiciary and breaking the law, so “how about them?”

When Morsi in December 2012 immunised his decisions and those of the Shura Council – the then legislative body – from the judiciary, legal hell broke loose, for no one is above the law. Matters escalated and young people took to the streets protesting the “new dictator”, with the well-known presidential palace clashes that followed leaving several dead.

At that time, the media and the judiciary were livid and completely against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, thus criticism was handed openly.

Nowadays, with the presence of Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi – whose presidential bid is anticipated by many in the coming period – in the possible political circuits, criticism has become of a more timid nature, meted out carefully lest the powers that be (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) be disturbed.

It is hypocritical to compare the reaction of many to Morsi’s decision back in 2012 to their reaction to this decision taken on Saturday. The quite murmur of muffled voices nowadays is sickening. Where did the eloquent reporters who gave the people ammunition against Morsi’s dictatorial decrees go?

What happened on Saturday is an alarming indicator on where Egypt is heading; a new era of a lawless country is about to begin, where a select few are to be above the law.

The question here is, if such an action did not work for the tyrant Hosni Mubarak, not for the pseudo-Islamist Morsi, why do the current rulers expect it to work now?

In a country where people are poor and the median age is 24, do they really expect the very angry and quite young people to take it lying down? The same youth who buried their friends and relatives in clashes since 2011 in hope of a better country are still willing to die to change their future.

Consecutive rulers and cabinets have failed to meet the demands of the revolution: bread, freedom and social justice. People are getting poorer with no economic vision on the horizon. Crackdowns on the press, protests and citizens in general are becoming worse on a daily basis with the police remaining untouched by reform. As for justice, as one man once told me regarding living conditions here, “justice can only be found after death”.

To the powers that be, know this: you can have your immunised decision and your new president, but what you have just done is giving fuel for another wave of revolt, which will probably be here sooner than you expect.

About the author

Sara Abou Bakr

Politics editor at Daily News Egypt Twitter: @sara_ab5


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