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Carter Centre condemns SCAF and Egyptian elections committee

February 17, 2014 at 11:18 pm

The Carter Centre has expressed deep concern about the constitutional and political situation in Egypt which calls into question the purpose and meaning of the presidential election.

In a statement issued by the centre, which monitored the election, former US President Jimmy Carter criticised the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) decisions regarding the Egyptian Constitution. “I am deeply troubled by the undemocratic turn that Egypt’s transition has taken,” said Mr. Carter. “The dissolution of the democratically-elected parliament and the return of elements of martial law generate uncertainty about the constitutional process before the election.”

His statement continued: “The Constitutional Declaration, in which the SCAF carves out special privileges for the military and injects itself into the constitution drafting process, violates their prior commitment to the Egyptian people to make a full transfer of power to an elected civilian government. A constitution is a permanent foundation for the nation, and must be fully inclusive and legitimate. An unelected military body should not interfere in the constitution drafting process.”

Noting that the Egyptian people have again demonstrated their deep commitment to the electoral process, the Carter Centre pointed out that the transition to democracy doesn’t just require elections to take place. “A full transfer of power to elected civilian institutions, and a constitution drafted by a comprehensive and legitimate Constituent Assembly, is also essential.” With what has happened in Egypt, added Carter, “it is now unclear whether a truly democratic transition remains underway” in the country.

According to the Carter Centre’s statement, the decisions to dissolve the parliament and allow Ahmed Shafiq to be a candidate despite the Political Isolation Law which prohibits ex-members of the ousted Mubarak regime to stand for election “casts doubt on the value of the presidential election in the transition process”.

“The People’s Assembly was a popularly-elected parliamentary body with legislative powers and the constitutional mandate; the Constitutional Court’s decision threw doubt on the path of transition in Egypt. The dissolution of parliament reinforced the sense of uncertainty about the nature and course of the process of drafting the Constitution and of the democratic transition phase.”

The Carter Centre has significant concerns not only about the lack of a clear roadmap for the transition, but also about the continued role of the unelected Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in the government of the country. “These concerns have been heightened by the recent, troubling decree of the Ministry of Justice that grants the military far-reaching powers to detain and try civilians for a range of alleged criminal activities. Most alarming of all, however, was the unilateral issuance of an addendum to the constitution by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, even as Egyptians’ presidential votes were being counted.”

It is clear, said Carter, that a dominant role for SCAF has now been enshrined within the government structure, with executive as well as legislative authority. “This calls into question SCAF’s oft-repeated commitment to transfer meaningful power to civilians by July 1, 2012.”

The statement called for the Constituent Assembly to be given the opportunity to play its role: “It is imperative for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, as an unelected military body, not to interfere in the constitution drafting process. A Constituent Assembly with popular legitimacy must be granted the opportunity for full and complete debate and discourse on the content of the constitution and Egypt’s political future. In addition, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces must turn over legislative power to a democratically-elected parliament as soon as possible. Finally, the success of the transition will require guaranteed respect for and protection of the fundamental civil and political rights of all Egyptians, by a democratically-elected, civilian government.”

Ex-President Carter condemned “the reluctance of the committee supervising the elections to give it the necessary licences” and pointed out that it refused to allow the local and international observers, journalists and candidates’ representatives to have access to the final aggregation process during the two rounds of elections.

The Carter Centre mission to the Egyptian election process was led by Abdelkarim Al-Iryani, the former Prime Minister of Yemen, Marwan Al-Muasher, the ex-Foreign Minister of Jordan, and Jason Carter, the State Senator for Georgia, USA. The mission included more than 90 observers from 31 countries.