CAIRO: Critics of the proposed constitutional amendments argue that they will rubber stamp the succession of Gamal Mubarak as ruler of the country after his father, current President Hosni Mubarak.
Although the younger Mubarak, head of the policy secretariat of the National Democratic Party (NDP) has refuted on more than one occasion any desire to run for office, activists in Egypt are not convinced and see elements of the constitutional amendments as further proof that a hereditary succession is in the works.
Among the proposed amendments are articles that limit judicial oversight of elections, ascribing the responsibility to a vaguely defined Supreme Independent Council, which some see as an attempt to freeze out the independence of Egypt’s judges.
Another amendment forbids the formation of political parties based on a religious platform, thus preventing the Muslim Brotherhood from entering mainstream politics as anything but independents.
Experts agree that at the very least, the constitutional amendments will ensure that the succession of power will remain in the hands of the ruling party.
“The amendments are to curtail the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and are a step in grooming Gamal for office, Rabab Al Mahdy, professor of Political Science at the American University in Cairo told The Daily Star Egypt.
She added: “With the decreased supervision of judges in elections, there will be fraud with lesser accountability.
Nabil Abdel-Fatah an expert from Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies told The Daily Star Egypt that the amendments ensure the succession stays with the NDP, but will not specifically go to Gamal Mubarak.
“It facilitates for the ruling party to choose who will lead the country, whether Gamal or otherwise. In light of the weakness of opposition political parties, it is the current political powers that will decide who will succeed.
The amendment to Article 179, that of the proposed anti-terrorism law (which will replace the existing emergency law, in place since 1981), allows authorities to tap phone lines, search homes, and arrest suspects without warrants. It also allows the referral of civilians to trial in military courts, where rulings cannot be appealed.
Al Mahdy said: “With this law you’re banning anyone from mobilizing, especially the Muslim Brotherhood with their slogan of ‘Islam is the solution’.
Abdel-Fatah said that “It will be the rulers’ right to refer any terror suspects to any sort of judicial process, such as military courts, which removes the entire appeals process.
Al Mahdy pointed out that there was no amendment to the article that sets a limit on presidential terms “guaranteeing that this family will be with us for many years to come.
An additional amendment is the president’s right to dissolve parliament without approval through a referendum. Currently, the Muslim Brotherhood hold a fifth of the seats in parliament, though they are registered as independents.
“The most dangerous thing in the amendments is that it gives wide ranging privileges to whoever is ruling the country. For example, the unilateral right of the head of state to dissolve parliament.
So does all this pave the way for the succession of Gamal Mubarak?
“Of course, says Al Mahdy, “the whole constitutional amendments are to facilitate the succession for Gamal without pressure from the international community or [internal opposition].
Abdel-Fatah takes a slightly different track saying “the succession of Gamal seems easier with the amendments but I don’t think it will happen. In the current circumstances, I don’t think Hosni Mubarak will secede to Gamal. As long as he rules, there will not be a succession.
Al Mahdy said that legislation will be molded to ensure a beneficial succession. “This is a politicized state, not an institutional one. The regime changes legislation according to its preferences. In an institutional state, legislation is made to govern the rule of law. Here there is no rule of law.