Friday,15 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012
Friday,15 December, 2017
Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Not conducive to democracy

Angry reaction to Morsi’s constitutional declaration came from abroad as well, Doaa El-Bey reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

The US administration pointed to the possibility of suspending financial aid worth billions of dollars allocated for Egypt unless President Mohamed Morsi goes back on a constitutional declaration issued last Thursday.
“All of the support that we provide for Egypt, whether it’s political support, economic support”, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland noted Monday, “has been in support of an Egypt that is becoming increasingly democratic, that will have a constitution that protects all of these rights. So that’s the trajectory that we want to see Egypt on.”
Nuland added that the United States could still oppose a pending $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, agreed upon last week following two years of negotiations.
In addition, John McCain, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee and Carl Levin, the Democratic chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, two of the United States’ top legislators on foreign policy called on President Barack Obama Sunday to send a strong or even punitive signal to Morsi.
On an unofficial level, the International Crisis Group, a watchdog, said on Monday “the president [Morsi] offered the wrong answer to a real problem. He used a chainsaw where a scalpel was needed.”
Transparency International, the global anti-corruption organisation, warns that the constitutional declaration concentrates too much power in the executive branch, a move that runs contrary to Egypt’s transition towards democratic reforms.
The European Union also released a statement urging the president to respect the “democratic process”.
“It is of utmost importance that the democratic process be completed in accordance with the commitments undertaken by the Egyptian leadership,” a spokesman for Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, said in a statement.
“Morsi must ensure the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, the protection of fundamental freedoms and the holding of democratic parliamentary elections as soon as possible,” said spokesman Michael Mann.
A Dutch member of the European Parliament, Marietje Schaake, urged Ashton to freeze all financial assistance to Egypt following the constitutional declaration which gives Morsi sweeping presidential powers.
“President Morsi placed himself and all his decisions above the law. The danger of a presidential tyranny looms. The EU should send a clear signal and freeze all financial assistance to the Egyptian government, until the president will be under the law and subject to judicial oversight again,” Schaake argues. Schaake favoured a close partnership between the EU and Egypt, provided that fundamental principles — ie the separation of powers and an independent judiciary — are at its base.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed concern about the latest developments in Egypt, according to an official spokesperson for the German government.
German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said on Monday in Berlin that the separation of powers of government, parliament and the judiciary is one of the basic rules of any democratic constitution.
Seibert added that his government is undoubtedly watching the recent developments with “concern”, saying that the Egyptian revolution began with great expectations, and that he hoped the revolution leads to an orderly democratic state.
France, for its part, voiced concern about Morsi’s new constitutional declaration increasing his powers, saying that the North African country is not moving in the “right direction”.
“After decades of dictatorship... the political and democratic transition cannot take place in a few weeks or a few months. Given this, the constitutional declaration made yesterday by President Morsi... does not seem to us to be in the right direction,” French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Philippe Lalliot said on Friday.
The French official further pointed out that reforms in Egypt “must lead to the establishment of democratic and pluralist institutions that respect public freedoms”, including the independence of the judiciary.
Newspapers also expressed concern about the declaration. The editorial of the New York Times on Monday described the declaration as “stunning in its breadth”.
“It took several steps that could have popular appeal, like removing an unpopular Mubarak-era prosecutor-general and paving the way for the retrial of Mr Mubarak and other officials. But, at its core, it would exempt all of Mr Morsi’s actions from review by the courts and establish what 23 Egyptian human rights groups in a statement called a “new dictatorship”, the edit added.
The British Guardian wrote that the declaration gave Morsi total power. And there lies a pyramid-sized contradiction. “How can you enact a transition to democracy, instill respect for the rule of law and separate the powers of the judiciary, legislative and executive, by overriding all three ?”
The newspaper editorial on Friday concluded by emphasising that no transition would hold if Egypt becomes more polarised. “Mr Morsi still needs a consensus to govern.”

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