From the Archive
The Struggle for Libyan Liberation
Immigrating to the USA (1)
matières a reflexion
The Salafist epidemic in Algeria
A Message Addressed to the Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi Concerning the Recent Suicide Bombing
The Egyptian president: Secular or Sharia?
Fatwas Part One-Hundred-and-Forty
Fatwas Part One-Hundred-and-Nine
The Ferocious Brown Chick Is Threatening Our Person:
Free The Holy Mosque
Today in Egypt
The Curse of Terrorism and the Efficiency of Egyptian Police Officers
The Just Third Way
Birth of the Quranist trend and Ahmed Subhy Mansour
Fitna and the challenge to moderate Muslims
The Comedy of the Ten Men Promised of Paradise
a religion which Allâh has not ordained
Between Bringing Glad Tidings, Preaching, and Islamic Enlightenment
Fatwas Part One-Hundred-and-Thirty-Seven
A transitional government must be in place to establish a comprehensiv
Amending the Egyptian Constitution will not be sufficient

A transitional government must be in place to establish a comprehensive reform

President Mubarak, under pressure, has agreed to amend one article of the constitution, but would this be sufficient to produce the comprehensive reforms that we have been struggling for, for the past twenty five years?
The apparent goal of this change is to replace the current system of “referendum” in selecting the president to what “looks like” a Democratic system to elect the president, if History tells us anything, the so-called “tailors of laws” will work extremely hard to make sure that this amendment to the law is no more than a cosmetic one, and to guarantee the continuation of the status quo for the current president to be re-elected or for his Son to inherit the presidency. But, We are not as naïve as they think we are, Mr. Mubarak was in fact forced to make that cosmetic change, after many years of absolute refusal to do so, the last time was days ago prior to his announcement, it is very obvious that their goal is to keep dictatorship and corruption just as they are.

Briefly stated, what is needed is not to amend one or two articles of the Egyptian constitution, but to change the entire constitution to become a true democratic one that befits Egypt and the people of Egypt. Furthermore, the constitutional reform by itself will not be enough either, a comprehensive reform to the legislature process must be enacted to provide a solid ground for the political reform. And a political reform without a religious reform that lend it a legitimate and solid support so we may avoid jumping in a darkness that will be followed by a cataclysm that is reminiscent to the European cries when they shouted ”hang the last tyrannical with the intestine of the last Clergy”

What we need for our beloved Egypt is a peaceful reform that is inevitable, it can not be delayed or stalled, otherwise, there may be an explosion. The stubbornness and inflexibility of one individual may result in a very grave result for Egypt especially following the fundamental changes that the entire world has seen since 9/11/2001.

Following the elections of the People’s Assembly, in the late 1995, we were shocked at the strangling of our tiny marginal democracy by the Egyptian Government at a time when the “train” of Freedom and Democracy was stopping at many international stations of other nations that are far less developed than Egypt. As a reaction to that shock, I have, in agreement with Dr.Saad-Eldin Ibrahim, decided to begin a weekly open session in Ibn-Khaldoun Center, under the name “Ibn-Khaldoun forum” which started on Tuesday, the second of January 1996. We gave the name “So we do not jump in the darkness- A Plan for development of Egypt in the twenty first century” to those sessions, and as of today, these sessions continued to take place.

We began the weekly sessions for the first few months by inviting some well known candidates to the people’s assembly, who lost their bids to be elected as a result of government schemes and interferences, something the government has historically been able to do by using elections, which is the symbol of Democracy, to their advantage to solidify dictatorship.

The meetings that were attended by Egyptian political think tanks and jurists concluded that reforms must be done in the areas of Election laws, The constitution, and Criminal laws, in addition it was also concluded that reforms has to be done also to the legislation process.

The Ibn Khaldoun Forum meetings continued for finding a way for reforms, and as a result, the center and the gallery were the subject of orchestrated attacks by the media and the government, that continued till now.

About that time I wrote this research article and it was translated to both English and German languages in 1996, and it was published in the Ibn Khaldoun annual report “The civil society and Democratic Changes in the Arab world” Which was published in 1997 forheir bids to be elected as a result of government schemes and interferences, something the government has historically been able to do by using elections, which is the symbol of Democracy, to their advantage to solidify dictatorship.

The meetings that were attended by Egyptian political think tanks and jurists concluded that reforms must be done in the areas of Election laws, The constitution, and Criminal laws, in addition it was also concluded that reforms has to be done also to the legislation process.

The Ibn Khaldoun Forum meetings continued for finding a way for reforms, and as a result, the center and the gallery were the subject of orchestrated attacks by the media and the government, that continued till now.

About that time I wrote this research article and it was translated to both English and German languages in 1996, and it was published in the Ibn Khaldoun annual report “The civil society and Democratic Changes in the Arab world” Which was published in 1997 for the State of the Nation in 1996.

Today, I republish the same article after nine years of continuing deterioration of the political environment in Egypt on all levels and all fronts, a testimony of the stubbornness of the ruling apparatus and their refusal to reform the system; even under an external pressure they continue their deception and concealment in these critical times.

Following this article, more articles dealing with a critique of certain articles of the Egyptian Constitution and the needed reforms, we argue All the intellectuals and think tanks in Egypt to speak out loud, and to write about reforming the Political, constitutional, religious and legislative systems, so the so-called “tailors of laws” will not have the stage for themselves, and their rotten profession.

Elections and Democracy in Egypt the
In The Light of the Latest Parliamentary
Election 1995

By Dr. Ahmed Sobhy Mansour


Democracy, Shura and elections were recently the most frequently used terms among Egyptians, especially after the latest parliamentary elections and the irregularities which took place, proving the major gap between slogans and their implementation. For instance, the political Islamic trend seeking power raises the banner of "Shura" or consultation instead of democracy. Their understanding of Shura, however, is that the ruler, who owns the nation and the people, should consult his elders, but only if he wanted to. It is also up to him to decide whether to form a Shura councilor or not, appointing or removing its members at will. As for members of such Shura councils, they should seek the ruler's satisfaction, even through hypocrisy. The practical implementation of this unique definition of Shura is what has taken place in Saudi Arabia on 1st March, 1992. The King issued three royal decrees defining the principles of governance, the Shura Council and a new system to divide regions of the Kingdom. He appointed Sheikh Mohammed Bin Jobeir, Minister of Justice, as the head of the Shura Council on 17 September, 1992. This development took place after nearly 75 years since the Kingdom was established.
This represents the only existing model of a religious state in the region, and the scope of its understanding of a constitution and consultation. It is the ideal model which the political Islamic trend seeks to introduce in Egypt: a model which existed in Islamic history in the period between the rule of the Ummayyads in the 7th century and the fall of the Ottoman Islamic Empire in 1924.

As for the theoretical definition of Shura according to the Qur’an and the rulings derived from the prophet's government, people are the source of power. God ordered his prophet, the ruler, to be flexible with his people so that they would not desert him, because if the ruler was deserted by the people, he will lose his Dawla (state). God also ordered Mohammed to forgive his people, to ask for them to be forgiven by God and to consult with them, as consultation was made an important Islamic order, immediately following the pillar of prayer. It was to become a religious tradition to be practiced by all Muslims in all aspects of their lives. He also obligated Muslims to practice consultation in mosques and never to walk out in protest from the majlis (council), for God will punish all who do. It was through this consultation tradition that the Arabs were able to turn themselves from a neglected people into an Umma (Islamic nation) and a civilization able to change history in a short period unprecedented in history. Later this governance based on Shura and justice was transformed into a despotic and unjust rule, in line with the condition that prevailed in the medieval times. Despotic rulers who followed raised Islamic slogans such as Shura, but emptied them from their real content. The same behavior is being practiced today by those who support the call for an Islamic state.

We can see this same gap between slogans and their true implementation in the military state that has continued to rule Egypt since the 1952 revolution. Egypt had witnessed an era of flourishing democracy between 1923 and 1952, one which it had never experienced before, despite the presence of British colonialism and the royal ruling family. While the 1923 constitution entitled the King to dissolve the council of ministers and the parliament, elections held at that time were largely fair, and the political life more prosperous. However, the political environment could not keep pace with the social developments and provide the full rights to the majority of Egyptians, workers and farmers. It was also impossible to maintain the same situation with the widespread of education, the rising generation of farmers and laborers rapidly becoming part of the middle class, the prevalence of leftist ideologies and the infiltration of the Muslim Brothers throughout the country. Hence, agricultural and social reforms became an absolute necessity. In a deteriorating situation with internal strife among political parties and coalition governments, the corrupt monarchy and the continued British occupation, a coalition between the Muslim Brothers and military officers, representatives of the new middle class, was formed to bring about the revolution. This revolution was thus facilitated and gained popular support due to the fact that its main principle was the establishment of a true democratic life.

After gaining power in 1952, the Free Officers had the chance to clear the 1923 Constitution from all the articles which did not match that era, such as those which gave the former King the right to dissolve the cabinet and parliament. After declaring Egypt as a republic, the new officers in power could have amended the Constitution in order to show that they were more liberal, democratic and responsive to the need for social, economic and political reforms. The officers could have also returned to their barricades, maintaining their role as protectors of the nation and democratic reforms. Yet, after gaining power and authority, the officers preferred to enjoy the privileges of their posts and the wealth that came along. Meanwhile, the officers ruled according to military norms, turning Egypt into a big military camp, whereby they issue orders, and the people, now soldiers, had to obey. Otherwise, they would be subject to severe punishment. It was normal that Gamal Abdel Nasser, the leader of the revolution, would become the source of authority and that political development would be stalled following the creation of a military dictatorship

Consequently, the constitutional development that Egypt witnessed prior to its neighbors -both in east and west -had already stopped. In the period between 1805 and 1882, Egypt experienced a continuous struggle to produce the first Egyptian Constitution in 1882, which the British occupation annulled upon their arrival. Afterwards, the struggle was to restore the constitution and to end occupation. The 1919 revolution resulted in declaring the 1923 constitution on April 19 upon which the first Egyptian parliament was convened on March 15, 1924. When Prime Minister Sidki Pasha came to power, he annulled the 1923 constitution and replaced it with the 1930 constitution which did not last for long. Thus, the 1923 constitution was in effect until the 1952 revolution. The revolutionary government issued several constitutional declarations, and temporary constitutions which were merely slogans that could not affect the absolute power of the military. This situation prevailed until issuing the permanent and current constitution of September 11, 1971 under Sadat's regime. This constitution defines the current state of Egyptian democracy and Egyptian electoral processes.

This paper attempts to study and analyze the latest People's Assembly elections from a constitutional, legal and historic perspective. The analysis will be based on a close reading of the Egyptian Constitution of 1971, the Egyptian electoral system, the reports on the electoral processes and the lectures held at Ibn Khaldoun Center which dealt with the last elections and were moderated by Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour. The lectures hosted several prominent Egyptian figures who ran in the last elections and did not make it to parliament. Their experiences were shared in an effort to formulate a better framework for future elections. After analyzing elections and Egyptian democracy, the paper will conclude with a future vision for democracy in Egypt in the next century.

Democracy and Egyptian Election,
A Constitutional Vision

If we were to imagine the Constitution as a theatrical play, the solo hero would be the president and all the other authorities and organizations would be extras. In the 1971 Constitution, the president monopolized and controlled all authorities, and the People's Assembly was his obedient servant that carried out all of his orders, as did all the other branches of the government

Democratic systems are based on separation of powers between the three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. The independence of each authority, the exercise of checks and balances, together with freedom of the Press and exchange of power are essential in any democratic rule. In a parliamentary democratic system the president does not hold any real power and his role is to act as an arbiter between the different authorities. The executive leadership is exchanged among parties who win the majority of seats in the parliament following elections. The cabinet should also win the support of the majority in parliament. Such is the case in Israel and India. As for presidential democratic systems, the president has much authority, but he is responsible in front of the people and legislatures who have the power to get rid of him through elections, since his, terms of presidency are not limited to only two periods, such as the case in the United States.

The Egyptian Constitution took from both systems mentioned above all what accentuates the despotism of the president and his monopoly over power. The president is the one to check and balance between the different authorities, according to the parliamentary system, and, according to the Egyptian Constitution, he monopolizes the three authorities without being questioned by the legislature, which act upon his will. He is also, according to the Constitution, a president for life since he can renew his term for an unlimited number of times. In light of the Egyptian Constitution, those rights are articulated as follows:

1- Concerning the position of the president, the Constitution dealt with that matter in the fifth section over two chapters: the first chapter titled "the head of state" (articles 73 to 85), and the third chapter titled "the executive authority" (articles 137 to 152). It is stipulated that the president is the executive leader since he is the most powerful figure in the government and the center of authority. In articles 137 and 138, he is named the head of the executive authority, formulates the general policy of the state and supervises its execution together with the cabinet, which he appoints its members and has the right to remove it at will (article 141). The president has the right to ask the Cabinet to convene, attend their meetings and preside over them according to article 142. This leaves the Cabinet as an administrative secretariat to the president (as the case is in the United States) but without being subjected to questioning by the People's Assembly about this authority. The president has also the right to appoint civil and military officials and political representatives, as well as removing them (article 143). He holds all the keys in the executive branch of government without any responsibilities to the People's Assembly.

2- The Council of Ministers, or cabinet, which is totally controlled by the president, also includes the minister of Justice, head of the judicial system. This definitely influences the independence of the judiciary that ought to be separate from the executive. However, the Egyptian Constitution goes even further than in article 173, as The president is appointed the head of the Higher Council of Judicial Institutions. According to article 149, he is permitted to interfere by issuing pardons or easing verdicts. The president could also refer ministers to trial according to article 159, although article 70 of the constitution states that legal cases should only be filed by a judicial body. Yet, the same article gave an exception to the president, adding judicial powers to his authorities and further subjugating the independence of the judiciary. Such infringements on the judiciary take place despite articles 165 and 166 which state that the judges are independent, with no power over them except that of the law, and that no authority has the right to interfere in matters of justice.

3- The Constitution has forbidden the establishment of armed militant groups, or groups of military nature in article 55, and any gathering of armed citizens in article 54. Thus carrying arms is limited to the police and the army, Article 150 and 182 states that the president is the Chief Commander of the armed forces, head of the National Defense Council and the Police Institution, despite the presence of ministers of defense and Interior in the cabinet who conform to the head of the republic. So this makes the military and police forces under the scrutiny of one man, the president, who, in turn, has the right to appoint or remove ministers and officials, including heads of staff in the army and the police.

4- The legislature is also controlled by the president directly and indirectly. He has the right to issue laws or object to them according to article 112. In the framework of his authorities, the president issues the executive guidelines of the laws approved (article 144), their regulations (article 145) and the necessary decisions to construct infrastructure and public utilities (article 146). Despite the existence of the legislative authority, the president has the right to overstep it and refer to the people directly in matters of higher state interests by conducting referendums as stated in article 152. This means that he represents the people directly with no need for a parliament. Through his control over the executive apparatus, that in turn controls the electoral system; the results of referendums always end up according to the president's will.

Using his executive authority, the president has great control over the parliamentary elections, resulting in a house of deputies where he enjoys the support of full majority. Thus, the parliament becomes a tool to assist the president in issuing legislation, which are usually approved upon his demand, providing further evidence on his control over the legislative power. The most recent striking example is the latest dubious Press Law 93 of the year 1995. It was issued promptly to chain the press that started to criticize the president personally. Journalists and their syndicate used great pressures to cancel or amend the law. Only a year later, the president responded to the journalists' pressure. Members of the parliament, who attacked the press and journalists while issuing the dubious law, competed to complement them when the president changed his mind and the law was amended Only then, the board of the press syndicate agreed to end its emergency general assembly meeting on June 19, 1996 .This is only one proof of the conformity and dependency of the elected parliament on the president and his wishes

Meanwhile, articles of the constitution that gives the president the right to issue laws and legislation, grants the parliament the same right. Article 108 gives the president the right to issue decrees with the power of laws upon a delegation of power from the parliament with a two-third majority, in urgent or exceptional cases

These decrees are later presented to parliament after the end of delegation for approval. The danger here is not only limited to the fact that such power emphasize the dependence of parliament on the president, but reality shows that such delegation of powers stay forever. It is known, for instance, that the parliament is usually delegating the president in matters of armament, raising a lot of suspicion

According to article 113, the president has the right to object to a draft law that has already been approved by parliament, returning it to the assembly within 30 days. This means that the highest legislative authority is the president, who gives the final approval for all draft laws. Article 147 also allows the president to issue decrees with the power of law in the absence of parliament if there was an urgent need for that. Then those laws would be presented to parliament for enactment. President Sadat used this article to issue the law on civil affairs which was drafted by his wife, Jehan Sadat, although there was no need at all to issue that law in the absence of parliament. It is also worth noting that the parliament canceled the most important clause in this law after the assassination of Sadat 1981, and those who stipulated the law were the ones who approved its amendment. The conclusion derived from this example is that the parliament is run according to the president's will, and, sometimes, that of his wife.

Article 151 permits the president to conclude treaties, and then report them to the parliament for enactment. As for treaties concerning the state's territories, its budget or sovereignty, they must be approved by parliament. This would have been a positive matter had the parliament, in reality, had the virtue of independence and right to oppose the president. But as a matter of fact, it delegates power to the president to endorse treaties and, hence, cannot afford but support and applause

It also is stated in the constitution, article 189, that both the president and the parliament have the right to demand the amendment of one or more articles of the constitution. Whereas the president has the absolute right to do so, the parliament's demands are conditioned by having to present a request and by having it approved by two-thirds of its members. In any case, it is the president who has the right, by himself or through the parliament, to change articles of the constitution as he is the source of legislative authority.

5- Article 86 of the constitution specified the responsibilities of parliament in legislation, which included defining the general state policy, the development plan, the state's balance of payment and monitoring the performance of the executive branch of government. This means that the parliament is accountable to the ministers, not to the president. It is clear that according to what we presented above that the three responsibilities of parliament (legislation, setting state policies, and monitoring) coincide with the actual presidential responsibilities in legislation and setting state policy. The cabinet, as well, serves the president in setting state policy, as the parliament helps him in issuing legislation. Finally, we have to mention that the parliament's role in monitoring the cabinet and the execution of set policies is usually done in favor of the president.

Articles 124 and 125 give the parliament the right to question the prime minister and other ministers; and article 126 makes the cabinet responsible in front of the parliament, which also has the right to conduct a vote of confidence. According to article 127, the parliament, with one-tenth majority, can assume responsibilities of the cabinet. This article stipulated that right, and the president should act as an arbiter between the parliament and the cabinet. It is also the president who can order, upon a referendum, the dissolution of the cabinet or parliament in case of dispute between himself and any of the two.

As we mentioned above, it is clear that the role of the parliament is confined to monitoring the cabinet to ensure that it does not overstep its role. Otherwise, the parliament itself could be dissolved. It was stipulated in the constitution in article 136 that the president has the right to dissolve the parliament when necessary. This necessity is naturally according to the judgment of the president, which he legitimizes through a public referendum run by the government. As we can see, the parliament works hard to serve the president since its position is equated with that of the Cabinet, and that the parliament's speaker, who is supposedly the representative of the people, is in a lesser position than that of the head of the republic. According to law 38 of the year 1972, the compensation received by the head of the parliament is equal to the compensation of the vice-president, turning the parliament into a government bureaucracy that follows the presidency establishment.

Thus, the constitution, while setting the parliament's mechanisms, was concerned to maintain the control which the president practices over this body. Article 101 states that it is the president who has the right to call for the parliament to convene for its annual session, and he is also the one to declare the end of each session. The timing of convening or adjourning the parliament's sessions could have been stipulated directly in the constitution without having to refer to the president. However, the main premise remains that the president is the most influential authority, and everything else follows, In article 102, this meaning is further emphasized by granting the president the right to ask the parliament to convene in an exceptional meeting in cases of emergency according to his judgment. This meeting could also be held upon the request of the majority of the members of parliament. In other words, the president, by himself or through the majority representing him in the parliament, could order the convening of parliament at anytime and in secret sessions if and whenever he wishes (article 106).

6- Yet, the greatest favor provided by parliament to the president is that it is the one who nominates elects and appoints him. Parliament also extends the president's term for other periods through referendums (article 76 and 77). It is because of these two articles that the presidency establishment is keen on maintaining the support of the majority of parliament. Only this way, the president would guarantee staying in power for life with all the authorities he enjoys, enabling him to carry out referendums and to form a tamed parliament. We can point to some articles in the constitution which support this argument.

Article 88 stipulates that the voting process should be held under the supervision of the judiciary, and this body, as noted before, is part of the executive authority since judges follow the Ministry of Justice. The judges, who supervise elections, lose their judicial immunity and turn into civil servants subject to the ministry of Interior and its orders. Briefly, it is the government that elects itself and its parliament members.

Article 89 permits government employees and public sector workers to run for parliament, and article 134 permits cabinet members to be parliament members. This would ultimately mean that such candidates would use all government utilities and influence in order to reach parliament through fabricated elections. In dealing with voters, those candidates would attempt to buy them by using the policy of "carrot and stick", promising favors in return for support. As they become members of parliament, they turn into a majority supporting the government and its head. Another article adding to the president's influence (article 87), allows him to appoint 10 members in parliament, adding to the majority that supports him. It is through this majority that the parliament, president willing of course, can dismiss members known as troublemakers under the claim of loosing credibility or failing to meet the demands of membership, (article 96). It is also through this majority that the parliament can turn down judicial sentences disqualifying election results, with the claim that it is only the parliament who should have the final word on the validity of its membership. In other words, "the council is the master of its decisions."

What is humorous in this whole situation is that article 136 in the constitution leaves rigging elections as the only alternative. It stipulates :”The President cannot dissolve the Parliament unless it is necessary and after referring to a public referendum II .The president issues a decree to adjourn the parliament sessions and proceeds with the referendum within 30 days. If the majority did not decide to dissolve the parliament, the constitution does not provide an answer, indicating that the stipulators of the constitution knew before hand that the referendum is fabricated and its results will be 99%. Thus, the results are known in advance, submitting to the president's will. In the end, the president also has the right to dissolve the parliament without any questioning. Even if the president was clearly wrong in taking that decision, the referendum would provide the legitimacy for such despotism. We can conclude from the above that fraud and treachery are part of the articles of the Constitution as well as the electoral system

Democracy And Elections in the Electoral Law.

The Egyptian electoral law was issued in 1956 and some of its articles were amended later in 1994. In this section, we give a brief account on the role of this law and its amendments in rigging elections while maintaining the democratic image.

1- The law grants the government the full right to monitor the electoral process. This is being carried out not just through judicial supervision, which falls under the influence of the executive authority, and is limited to controlling main voting stations. But public sector employees get appointed as directors of the subsidiary voting stations, the heart of the electoral process. If we were to assume the objectivity of the judges, this assumption is not applied when it comes to government officials getting their orders from higher positions. Hence, the judicial supervision is merely a token, if we assume its independence from government influence and intervention.

2- Yet, according to the law, the major source of intervention in the electoral process is the ministry of Interior. Being one of the predominant ministries, the public deals with it in fear and awe; while the ministry deals with the public with doubt, suppression and deterrence. This is the mentality of the police around the world, but with a gloomier picture in the third world, especially with matters of political security. The Ministry of Interior dominates the whole electoral process starting from preparing the voters lists in villages and cities, to supervising the campaigning period, to deciding the numbers of main and subsidiary voting stations and appointing the directors, ending with the announcement of the final outcome. All these procedures are in the hands of the Minister of Interior, who is headed by the Prime Minister, who in turn is headed by the President of the Republic and the High Commander of the police force whom the results must please.

3- The law further facilitates the forgery of the voters will. It stipulates that the director of the voting station should sign the voting certificates to validate a person's vote. The secretary of the voting station must also sign the voting lists for the same purpose. On the other hand, the law neglects to mention that the voter should sign or use his/her fingerprint to validate their votes. Many requests have been presented to the government to amend this article in the law, but have gone unanswered.

4- In the amended electoral law of 1994, the category of people excluded from participating in political activities was expanded to include those whose assets have been frozen by the government and employees who were dishonorably fired from their jobs. The exclusion also included those who declared bankruptcy, although bankruptcy in commercial circuits is common due to recession and rising prices.

5- Punishment for a forgery or false testimony case filed by an individual is imprisonment for several years. However, forging the will of the people is insufficiently penalized. For example, the punishment of entering a voting station carrying a weapon is only a fine of 200 Egyptian Pounds, while the act was meant to terrorize the voters. The law has considered all election related crimes to be an offense with punishment not exceeding a fine or imprisonment. Similarly, general lawsuits filed against election crimes are no longer relevant after six months. All these provisions secure the government pursuit of forgery and fraud, and encourage others to do the same

We have presented the legal and constitutional framework according to which elections were transformed into a despotic tool. All Egyptian elections and referendums since 1952 revolution were carried out within this framework, especially parliamentary elections. The worst case of all was the latest parliamentary elections which we have fortunately kept a record of all its violations and irregularities. This has also given us a chance to look closely- with facts at hand- at the democratic process in Egypt in the last years of the Twentieth century.

The status of democracy and election in Egypt
In the latest People’s Assembly Elections (November-December, 1995)

It was expected that the democratic transformation witnessed by the whole world and the fall of communist dictatorships would mean an increase in the degree of democracy in Egypt and that this would be seen in the latest parliament elections, the last to take place in this century. But the public was shocked when it found out that the government has prepared shortly before elections two measures which reflected the government's despotic intentions. The first of these two measures was the issuing of the suspicious press law, Law 93 for the year 1995, which has put serious restrictions on freedom of _expression, and dealt a strong blow to the already narrow democratic margin available in Egypt, represented by freedom of the press. The second measure was the arrest of leading Moslem Brotherhood members and referring them to a military trial. Most of those held were prominent political figures and were preparing to run for elections, confirming to the public that the government carried out this move for reasons related to elections and with the aim of terrorizing Brotherhood members. The Muslim Brothers were the strongest opponents to the government, and it is well known that they are the largest popular party despite the fact they are not officially recognized. Elections were also held under emergency laws which allow the government to take exceptional measures limiting freedoms. The government made use of those laws to serve its own purposes in elections and to scare opposition candidates. Using emergency laws, the, government arrested 1392 Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers in the period between 15 November and 6 December 1995, according to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR).

As a result of such clouded atmosphere, Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies held several seminars dealing with agendas of different political parties, with the aim of creating a better atmosphere for running elections in Egypt. In the seminar held to discuss the political agenda of the Labor party, a suggestion came up to form an Egyptian commission to monitor elections. Ibn Khaldoun Center took the initiative of calling for the formation of this commission to be made up from activist Egyptian figures. It was not long before the Independent Commission for Election Review (ICER) was established, including in its membership, together with Ibn Khaldoun, several human rights centers and the EOHR. This commission prepared a report, “A Testimony for History" which included a realistic description of what took place during the 1995 elections after monitoring the electoral process in 88 constituencies by 600 volunteers. The Commission carried out its job while being continuously threatened by the government. Statements were made by the Prime Minister and the Interior Minister aimed at scaring members of the Commission. However, sentences given by the Administrative Court in appeals against results of elections came to support the Commission's report, as the court has disqualified results of elections in nearly 120 constituencies. Beside the testimony provided by the Commission, the EOHR also presented an independent report on elections titled, "Democracy in Danger. Elections with no winners." Later, Ibn Khaldoun Center held several seminars in which Egyptian figures who did not succeed in elections gave their testimonies based on what they have seen in reality.

On the basis of the testimonies provided by the three previously mentioned sources, we could summarize the following violations which marked the electoral process.

1- We should start with the ICER's testimony which divided the violations into three categories: Those committed before elections, or during campaigning, violations on the day of voting and those which occurred during the counting process. The ICER provided detailed information supported by documents.
During the campaigning period, the state was not committed to the compulsory registration of voters. It also refused to remove the names of those who have no right to vote from the voters' lists such as the deceased, those performing military service and others who are deprived from the right to vote. Thus, there were many repeated names in the lists. Opposition candidates were not given detailed voters' lists which are another violation of the law.

Government-owned media was also used to serve candidates of the ruling party, together with public funds and the government's strong influence. State officials were mobilized to support the ruling party's candidates, beside donations given by wealthy figures. On the other side, banners of opposition candidates were torn and police prevented them from holding any public rallies or marches. Religion was used against Coptic candidates, and so was violence which led to several deaths. Opposition candidates and their supporters were also arrested during the campaign period.

On the election day, the ICER report noted the following violations: The arrest of polling agents who were supposed to monitor the election process, kicking the agents out of polling station or preventing them from entering in the first place and the flagrant interference by security men who raided polling stations, arrested opposition sympathizers and kept silent while thugs of the ruling party were rigging the votes. During the counting process, police arrested representatives of opposition parties in the counting stations or prevented them from entering to witness the process. Thus, a feeling prevailed that balloting boxes were changed after gathering them or that rigging took place in favor of government candidates. All these observations were confirmed by Egyptian figures who failed to make it to parliament in the seminars which were held at Ibn Khaldoun Center after elections were over

2- The EOHR report, meanwhile, listed the restrictions which the government imposed on opposition candidates such as removing their banners, confiscating material used in the propaganda campaign, arresting candidates and their supporters and banning marches. The report provided classical cases on interference by local authorities and using public funds to support government candidates and suppressing opponents. On the day of voting, the report noted expelling agents from voting and counting stations, falsifying voters' lists by adding names to them and refusing to clear out the names of others who have no right to vote, direct rigging in several polling stations, and preventing voters from casting their ballot and buying voters. It also notes~ the bloody violence which marked the 1995 elections and criticism to judges who monitored the process. The EOHR report was keen to provide full details of the incidents mentioned, including names, places, numbers and documents.

The EOHR said that elections were characterized by bloody violence and the indifference in which the state dealt with court sentences nullifying results of elections in 112 constituencies until the time the report was issued. It added that parties other than the ruling party took part in the rigging and that the role local authorities played was of great influence on the results of elections. It was also found out that most parliament members who opposed the suspicious press law, Law 93/1995, which was approved in the last session of the former parliament, were not allowed by the government to succeed in the 1995 elections. Political parties, particularly the ruling party, did not show any adherence to national unity by failing to nominate Coptic candidates. Reflecting the chaos

3- In short, the government was the party which made up its own exam, put the questions, supervised the process, corrected the results and announced them, all by itself. The government declared its victory, chose its opponents in the People's Assembly and dealt a final blow to the Egyptian people.

A Historic View of Egyptian Elections and Democracy
On the Eve of the Twenty-First Century

Egypt has the oldest despotic government in history, nearly 7,000 years of totalitarian rule. Therefore, it is easy for any ruler to turn into a despot. But the present Twentieth century has witnessed a new development according to which Egypt's despotic rulers rely on the support of the military establishment, while facing another Egyptian adversary represented by political Islamic groups. They are both products of the Egyptian middle and lower classes, and they both adopt an ideology based on tyranny, whether military or religious. Meanwhile, they both speak the language of power and conspiracies in order to reach power and maintain it. Through their cooperation, the army succeeded in its move in 1952 which later turned into a popular revolution. After 1952, it was the clash between the military and political Islamic groups which marked the history of Egypt and the Middle East.

The Egyptian government under Mubarak exploited the threat of political Islamic groups to scare Egyptians, telling them that the alternative to the present system would be the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood group and terrorism. This way, people were convinced to be satisfied with what is bad instead of facing what is worse. Yet, the growing threat of terrorism and extremism recently scared the government itself, who in turn, was involved in an open clash with the Brotherhood which was clearly seen in the latest elections. The clash, as we confirmed, was between two kinds of dictatorships, one religious which practices tyranny under the banner of Shura, while the other is a military dictatorship ruling in the name of democracy.

The nineties of this century have also witnessed the emergence of a new element in Egypt's political scene mainly civil society organizations research centers and human rights groups. These organizations were hated by both the government and political Islamic groups although the later would not mind using those organizations in its conflict against the government. Thus activities of civil society organizations and their struggle for democracy became the only hope to save Egypt from long history of despotism. This hope is based on two factors: external and internal. On the international level democracy and human rights became part of the international discourse after reaching a stage of maturity whereby the whole world became a universal village without borders and divisions. This village wants to deal peacefully among its members, preventing any dictator from suppressing his people and ruling them according to his own personal will. Dictators have always tended to cause trouble on the international level in order to hide their failures on the local side. Meanwhile, civil society organizations are the only qualified party to take over the government's role in running the people's affairs following the fall of communism and the marginalization of the government's role in the society. People themselves should work on running their own affairs instead of central governments marked by bureaucracy and corruption. Thus, the future is for civil society in the universal village, and that could be a kind of external support to strengthen democracy in Egypt.

The local factor supporting the rise of civil society organizations is that military dictatorship and its slogans, religious dictatorship and its ideology were anachronistic, at a time when any violation of human rights is totally unacceptable. Human rights should not only be political, but they are also economic, social and environmental. The international human rights culture aborted the dreams of the military who wanted to continue their despotic rule. The same culture would prevent political Islamic groups from reaching power except after accepting democracy, pluralism and exchange of power.

It is worth noting that the Egyptian Constitution has legitimized the open-ended rule of the military. It did not only allow the renewal for the president, a military man, for an endless number of periods, but it also stated in article 84 that the Parliament Speaker, followed by the Head of the Constitutional Court, should take over the presidency post for 60 days in case it was vacant, but on condition that they do not run themselves as candidates for the post after the end of that period. Meanwhile, it is well known that the only organized and strong national establishment which can impose a new president is the military. This fact was taken for granted in the seventies, particularly after the fervor which followed the 1973 military victory over Israel and the emergence of several prominent military leaders. Yet, the situation changed after reaching a peace agreement with Israel, and the present system was keen to remove any emerging military leaders who enjoy a certain degree of popularity. Thus, military commanders were forced back into their barricades to prevent them from posing any danger to the political leadership. This policy has weakened the political influence of the military establishment at present, and definitely in the future. Civil society organizations were able to fill in the vacuum, or this is what they should do in the future.

Thus, when the presidency post becomes vacant in the future, civil society organizations are advised to take the initiative and call for forming an interim government with the following tasks: drafting a new constitution, removing ALL the previous totalitarian, central, outdated and complicated laws, setting the basis for political, economic and social reform and introducing a mechanism which would guarantee the principle of exchange of power according to a stable system, as the situation is in other democratic countries.

The previous demands might sound like dreams, but Ibn Khaldoun Center started taking the first step in this long road of building modern Egypt by discussing the present constitution and setting the general guidelines which should be included in a new Egyptian constitution for the coming century. Following the same line, other organizations and civil society groups are working on spreading principles of democracy and raising awareness in terms of rights and duties, as awareness has always been the basis for democratic transformation.


1-The Egyptian Constitution and its annexes EI-Hayaa El-Amma AI- Amiria
print shop, 1995

2- A Testimony for History, the Independent Commission for Election Review,Ibn Khaldoun Center, 1995.

3- The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights report on Elections, 1995.

4- Unpublished seminars on elections held at Ibn Khaldoun Center.

One more thing I must add now, the previous article is what I have wrote in 1996, it is a shame that What I said then, is still applicable right now to describe the situation in Egypt, as if Egypt is frozen in time, even though, some may say this is the age of “speed & change”, but this must be a roamer!!

Ahmed Subhy Mansour.

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