The Counterrevolution: Egypt court dissolves parliament

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Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court issued two momentous rulings Thursday that analysts in Washington and Cairo describe as amounting to a soft coup.

The court ruled that one third of Egypt’s parliamentary seats should be voided, thus effectively calling for the dissolving of Egypt’s recently-elected legislature. It also ruled that  former Mubarak-regime prime minister Ahmed Shafiq be allowed to stand in Egyptian presidential run-off elections, scheduled to be held June 16-17th.

“That’s it for Egypt’s so-called transition,” Marc Lynch, a Middle East expert at George Washington University, wrote at Foreign Policy‘s Middle East channel blog:

“Today’s moves by the Constitutional Court on behalf of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) seem difficult to overcome and likely to push Egypt onto a dangerous new path,” Lynch wrote. “With Egypt looking ahead to no parliament, no constitution, and a deeply divisive new president, it’s fair to say the experiment in military-led transition has come to its disappointing end.”

“The revolutionary promise of Tahrir Square is clearly slipping away,” said Steve Cook, an Egypt expert at the Council of Foreign Relations, in a call with journalists Thursday.

“Determined counterrevolutionary groups in Egypt appear to have outmaneuvered a variety of new groups that thought in inspiring 18 days in 2011 they had finally done away with the regime that the Free Officers ushered in in 1950s,” Cook said. The court’s move suggests Egyptian players seeking greater democracy “have largely been outmaneuvered by the military and the system is one that goes back to the founding of [the Egyptian military] regime back in 1950s.”

“This is clearly going to go on for a long time,” Isobel Coleman, an Egypt expert who directs the women and foreign policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Thursday. “We are seeing a big push by counterrevolutionary forces.”

Coleman noted a series of decisions in advance of the court’s ruling Thursday suggesting it had been in the works for some time. In particular, she noted the SCAF’s reinstatement of an emergency law Wednesday. A similar law had been in place for thirty years of Mubarak’s rule, but expired May 31st.

But this week, the expired Mubarak-era emergency law “was replicated with a new law, that citizens and human rights groups can be arrested and tried in military courts,” Coleman said, in apparent “anticipation of what they were girding for: some big demonstrations and protests coming up.”

“These counterrevolutionary forces are not moving over,” Coleman said. “The big question becomes what will the major players do.” Continue reading

Egypt reacts to Mubarak verdict: “What Egypt needed was a truth and reconciliation commission”

Huge demonstrations have erupted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and cities throughout Egypt hours after an Egyptian judge sentenced deposed president Hosni Mubarak and his Interior Minister to life in prison for accessory to murder, while acquitting six senior security officials in the killing of unarmed protesters.

Al-Monitor reached out to several veteran Egypt watchers for their reaction to the verdicts.

“What Egypt needed was a truth and reconciliation commission about the crimes committed during the Mubarak era, not an ordinary court where prosecutors did their job poorly and is limited to the 18 days of the 2011 uprising,” Issander El Amrani, a Middle East analyst who blogs at “The Arabist,” told Al Monitor Saturday.

Issander El Amrani, who blogs at “The Arabist“:

These verdicts give you two parts: on the one hand, there’s a crowd pleasing part against Mubarak and his minister of interior as the two chief villains of the Egyptian uprising. On the other, every other security official is exonerated, sending a message to the entire security apparatus that their corporate interests are secure and they
won’t be abandoned by the regime, which still needs them. In the context of a presidential election where one of the two remaining candidates represents a restoration of the old order and the other wants to eliminate it, that amounts to a call to arms. But away from the verdicts, the entire process was flawed to start with.

What Egypt needed was a truth and reconciliation commission about the crimes committed during the Mubarak era, not an ordinary court where prosecutors did their job poorly and is limited to the 18  days of the 2011 uprising.

Steven Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and author of The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square:

I can understand why people are upset, but the verdicts aren’t terribly surprising. Mubarak et al were tried under the old regime’s unstable legal order with Mubarak-appointed judges.

It seems this gives a lift to [Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohamed] Morsi, people are coming out of the woodwork for him now. That said, hard to make a judgement definitely on the pres elections. Were Ayman Nour and his minions going to vote for [former Mubarak regime Air Force chief Ahmed] Shafiq? Continue reading