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Constitutionalising Egypt’s dictatorship

Constitutional proposals could allow Sisi to stay in power till 2034 - Cartoon [Mohammad Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

I do not care whether the Egyptian Constitution is amended or not, or even whether it exists or not, given that Egypt is a military state under tyrannical fascist rule. This regime only knows the language of oppression and so it doesn’t matter if there is a constitution or not. Such niceties are for the civilised world, providing a binding agreement between the leader and the people, in which each party fulfils its duties and defines the rights applicable to all so that nobody oversteps them.

However, in the Third World, the world of dictatorships, constitutions are drafted and approved by the tyrants and the people have no say. The ballot boxes and constitutions are prepared in advance and any involvement of the people is a facade to fool the world.

This is why I am not at all concerned by the fact that more than two-thirds of the Egyptian parliament, which was formed by the intelligence agencies, has approved an amendment to the constitution drafted after the 2013 coup. Not even five years after it was drafted, they now want to amend it to constitutionalise the militarisation of the state and dictatorship, and allow the leader to rule for eternity.

READ: Egypt’s Moussa calls for dialogue on constitution changes 

The government wrote the current Constitution exactly how it wanted to through the committee it appointed to carry out its orders, the so-called “Committee of the 50”. Despite this, the government of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has not abided by its provisions and the Executive did not stay within its limits. Instead, it took over the powers of the other authorities and paralysed them in order for the leader to have the upper hand on every occasion. This has allowed Al-Sisi to do what he wants whenever he wants without any constitutional provisions to stop him. For example, the position of defence minister was preserved for two presidential terms in the constitution, but Al-Sisi has obliterated this provision. He put it in place for himself when he was defence minister and ruled the country from behind the scenes, unsure about international and regional approval of his presidential candidacy. However, when he became president, he did not allow his partners in the coup to challenge his authority, not least because he feared that the army would rebel and do to him what he did to President Mohamed Morsi.

Article 65 of the current constitution guarantees freedom of thought and expression by all available means. Nevertheless, Al-Sisi’s prisons are filled with prisoners of conscience whose greatest crime is that they expressed their opinions on social media. Article 54 requires the legislators to determine the period of preventative detention, not leave it open-ended. Despite this, they have left it open for use as a weapon against those whom they have detained. These are just a couple of examples of the blatant violations of the constitution by the current regime.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi [Egyptian President Office/Apaimages]

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi [Egyptian President Office/Apaimages]

The Egyptian constitution is just for show; a collection of sentences using loose terms such as personal liberties, citizens’ rights, equality, social justice, human rights, separation of powers and so on. None of these high ideals, though, are seen in practice. On the contrary, the exact opposite is being implemented. Human rights are not respected, but are violated and human life has no sanctity. Being on the side of the regime is no protection. Hence, we saw the explicit videos of Khalid Yousef MP which were leaked because he objected to the proposed constitutional amendment. The fact that he directed the 2013 coup and fabricated photos of the masses on the street to make their numbers appear larger than they were, did not spare him from having intelligence agents film what went on behind closed doors and then using the material for character assassination.

There is no equality amongst Egyptian citizens. Some groups of people such as the army and judiciary enjoy financial and material advantages while others are completely disregarded and neglected. Justice is a mirage; the number of prisoners detained unjustly and the instances of forced disappearances have increased. Police stations and prisons witness hundreds of cases of torture as documented by Human Rights Watch and similar organisations. There has also been an increase in the number of extrajudicial killings.

We need to ask why President Al-Sisi is rushing to amend the constitution in Egypt when he has not even finished the first year of his second term. The truth is that the main goal is to extend presidential terms from four to six years. This will keep Al-Sisi in the job until 2024, at least in the first phase. The second phase is well known, just as the first was expected and so unsurprising. Someone who comes to power through a coup will definitely not leave himself open to challenge through the ballot box. That goes against the logic of the situation and contrary to historical events. Those who come to power thanks to the tanks on the street only leave through tanks on the street, and Al-Sisi has come to stay. He said this in response to a question asked by a foreign youngster during the international youth conference who asked about the continued rule of the Arab leaders. “Death comes to everyone,” he replied, suggesting strongly that he intends to stay for life, even though he said after the coup that he would not rule and did not have the desire to do so, and that the honour of being a member of the military was more important than anything else.

READ: In Egypt, ‘political prisoners aren’t even recognised as humans’

However, when he became president and his first term was almost done, he began preparing for the next presidential election by arresting other candidates like Lieutenant General Ahmed Shafik, Lieutenant Sami Anan and Colonel Ahmed Konsowa. “As long as I am alive,” he told Anan, “no one will sit in my place.”

Al-Sisi doesn’t care about the constitutional amendment other than the change to the clause regarding the presidential term of office. Everything else is cosmetic. For example, he does not need to be head of the Supreme Judicial Council, which will be introduced under the proposal, adding this to his list of titles alongside Head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and his chairmanship of the Supreme Council of Police. In doing so, he will combine leadership of the executive and judicial authorities, which he is already doing without the need for a constitutional amendment or fancy titles. He is also controlling the legislative authority as he sees fit.

Egypt’s bogus President prepared public opinion for the idea of a constitutional amendment using figures associated with the regime, the corrupt media and his own speeches. Arguably the most prominent article written in this regard was by Al-Sisi’s “guardian journalist”, Yasser Rizk, editor in chief of Al-Akhbar. He called for a constitutional amendment and the establishment of what he called the “Council for the Protection of the State and the 30 June Revolution”. This council would be headed by Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in his capacity as the founder of the 30 June 2013 regime and the man who ended the January 2011 Revolution.

READ: Constitutional proposals could allow Sisi to stay in power till 2034 

Basically, Al-Sisi wants to establish a regime in which he remains in control for life. Any president who succeeds him will be his puppet implementing Al-Sisi’s decisions. This is exactly what he did after the coup when he made the President of the Supreme Constitutional Court the acting president of the Republic while he was the de facto leader behind the scenes. However, this time, he will appear on stage and the masses will see him as the supreme leader of the country. Hence, among the proposed changes is the assigning to the military the task of protecting democracy, the constitution and the civil state, acting as a cover for every future military intervention against decisions and policies that are not to the army’s liking, regardless of how much they are in the public interest and the development of the country.

This is the most dangerous of the proposed changes to the Egyptian Constitution, allowing the army to dominate and control public life in confrontation with the people. Whereas his predecessor Gamal Abdel Nasser imposed a military regime on Egypt, Al-Sisi is now working on constitutionalising this dictatorship.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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