Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1169, (24 - 30 October 2013)
Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Issue 1169, (24 - 30 October 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Elusive stability

Egypt’s shift towards fully civilian rule faces serious challenges, not least the Muslim Brotherhood’s threats to escalate street protests, writes Gamal Essam El-Din

Al-Ahram Weekly

Implementation of the post-30 June political roadmap gained momentum this week. The 50-member committee entrusted with writing a new constitution completed the first half of its job on Tuesday. According to Mohamed Salmawy, the committee’s media spokesperson, six chapters of the new constitution are now complete.

Salmawy expected a final version of the new constitution to be ready by 3 December, after which it will be referred to interim President Adli Mansour to be put to a national referendum. This will be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections.

“Completing the new constitution on time will send a signal to Egyptians and the outside world that the country is moving towards a fully civilian rule,” Salmawy told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Most commentators believe promulgation of a new constitution will represent a body blow to the Muslim Brotherhood whose leaders, in public at least, still insist Mohamed Morsi must return.

Al-Ahram political analyst Salah Salem warns that “the Brotherhood will mobilise for more protests in the coming weeks in a bid to derail the constitution-drafting process.”

“They recognise that a popular endorsement of the new constitution will sound the death knell for the Brotherhood and symbolise Egypt turning a new page.”

Interim Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawi argued this week that “there are indications that Egypt is on the right track in terms of security, politics and the economy”. In a televised interview on Sunday he said that “while the writing of a new constitution is showing great progress there are also signs of economic  improvement, higher reserves of foreign exchange, strong stock market gains, a slight increase in investments and an encouraging flow of tourist traffic.”

“We are seeing growing signs of stability,” said Al-Beblawi.

Train services are slated to resume between Cairo and Alexandria for the first time since the dispersal of Brotherhood protests in Cairo and Giza on 14 August. Al-Beblawi also held out the prospect of the state of emergency law, put into effect after 14 August, being cancelled. “We might not need the law to be extended because conditions are gradually coming back to normal,” he said. He indicated that the curfew, too, may soon be cancelled.

Many commentators are not convinced, especially following the latest acts of terrorism that have brought the government’s security policies into the spotlight. In Ismailia a military intelligence building was the target of a bomb attack on 19 October. A Sinai-based terrorist group, Beit Al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility.

On Sunday, gunmen opened fire on a Coptic church in Cairo killing four. The Maspero Youth Coalition accused the Muslim Brotherhood of masterminding the attack in an attempt to spread sectarian conflict but also lashed out at the Al-Beblawi government for not doing enough to safeguard Copts.

The terrorist acts came against the backdrop of Muslim Brotherhood organised student protests at Al-Azhar University.

Al-Beblawi downplayed the protests, describing them as “occasional clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents”, and said the government has finalised drafting two laws regulating protests and fighting terrorism that will replace the emergency law due to expire next month. “These two bills will be effective tools in restoring stability though we are open to dialogue if any of their articles causes fears about what some term the return of a police state.”

But the war of attrition between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military-backed interim government might not be confined to the local front. As Muslim Brotherhood street protests continued to wane in recent weeks the group’s leaders began focussing on support from its international branches. They have threatened an international campaign tarnishing the image of Al-Beblawi’s government and minister of defence Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

The Brotherhood’s threats came after efforts intended at reconciliation with the government failed completely.

“The group now believes more campus protests and support from the international branches of Brotherhood could change the equation,” says Salem.

Adel Darwish, an Egyptian journalist living in London, disclosed in a television interview this week that the Brotherhood’s international offices allocated $200 million to tarnish the image of the interim government in Egypt.

“They began by publishing full-page paid ads in low-profile British newspapers like The Guardian, bemoaning what they call ‘the Death of Democracy in Egypt’,” says Darwish.

Informed security sources told Al-Ahram this week that “the international branches of the Muslim Brotherhood held a meeting in the Qatari capital of Doha two weeks ago to forge a new strategy against Egypt’s interim government.”

“In collaboration with the Qatari and Turkish intelligence services a campaign will be launched to disrupt the anticipated national referendum on the new constitution.”

The source argued that “US President Barack Obama’s recent decision to freeze military cooperation with Egypt has emboldened the group and its affiliate terrorist cells — such as the Beit Al-Maqdis — to step up their armed attacks against military and civilian targets to spread violence and chaos.”

“They want as much bloodshed as possible in the coming weeks in the hope it might bring international intervention and disrupt the 30 June political roadmap.”

Kamal Abul-Magd, a prominent political activist and constitutional law professor who has acted a mediator between the Al-Beblawi government and Muslim Brotherhood says “the basic goal of reconciliation was to put an end to violence on the streets.”

“The group’s state of denial that the 30 June Revolution happened meant reconciliation bids were bound to fail,” says Abul-Magd. He also revealed that “current Brotherhood officials — who do not have much sway over members —stipulated that some of the group’s detained leaders be released as a goodwill gesture before reconciliation talks”.

Brotherhood official Mohamed Ali Bishr told the Qatari-based Al-Jazeera channel “the government’s focus on security solutions for Egypt’s current political crisis does not open any window for reconciliation.”

The government’s crackdown on the group shows no signs of abating. Security forces arrested tens of Muslim Brotherhood students at Al-Azhar University on Sunday and is certain to send them to trial for spreading violence on campus and in the streets.

Meanwhile, the trial of ousted president Mohamed Morsi is scheduled to begin on 4 November. Morsi is accused of inciting armed militias to kill peaceful pro-democracy protesters in front of the presidential palace on 5 December 2012. Protesters were demonstrating against a constitutional declaration which placed Morsi’s decrees above judicial scrutiny. Prosecutors charge that Morsi asked chief of the Republican Guard Major General Mohamed Zaki to open fire on protesters. He refused.

Morsi also faces allegations of conspiring with the Palestinian Hamas movement to storm prisons, release convicts and spread chaos during the 25 January Revolution.



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