Regarding that Referendum

One of the most persistent talking points by SCAF recently is that the people chose them to lead during the transitional period, and that the Referendum was really about giving the Armed Forces “the revolutionary legitimacy to lead” us. Now, as you all know, My view on the referendum has been that what’s done is done, and that people chose, and that we need to move on and focus on the election, because we shouldn’t take away from the people the experience of having their voice heard for the first time, even if that’s not true. Unfortunately, due to this persistent talking point, which is always followed by an accusation that the revolutionaries are trying to subvert Democracy by demanding a new constitution or a Bill of Rights first, I find myself unable to keep silent any longer. Fine, you want to talk about the referendum? Fine by me. Let’s go over this!

Now, mind you, this post won’t cover the usual whining of not having enough time for the No campaign, or how the MB told the people that if they vote yes they will go to Heaven, or how the army itself influenced the vote by telling the people that a Yes vote is the best way to move forward, while declining to give us a real choice as to what they will do if people voted NO, making the alternative seem mysterious and dangerous. None of that. I won’t even discuss this report that alleges, due to statistical fraud analysis that the referendum results were tampered with, and that blatant fraud took place. Instead, I would like to go over some facts with you, and let you decide for yourself.

1) The Referendum was proposed as an amendment of 8 articles to the 1971 constitution, thus bringing the constitution back to life temporarily until we create a new one. The voices opposed to this was that the 1971 constitution gave unchecked powers to the President, and we should have a temporary constitutional declaration until the election of a national committee to write the new constitution (which was one of the original demands of the Jan 25 revolution, alongside with a  Civil Presidential Council, which the SCAF promised back then they would fulfill). We were soundly ignored, and the referendum took place, and the Yes vote won, thus technically & legitimately resurrecting the 1971 constitution.

2) The 1971 constitution clearly states that in the event there is no President and no head of Parliament, then the head of the Egyptian Supreme constitutional court would have to be the next President temporarily for 60 days, until new presidential elections are held. There is nothing in the 1971 constitution that gives the SCAF any mandate to legitimately rule us.

3) Upon realizing that, the SCAF instead killed the resurrection of the 1971 constitution without informing us ( which would render the referendum constitutionally illegitimate, since it was done based on false pretenses), and instead announced that those articles we voted on will be part of a temporary constitutional declaration (oh yeah! That’s why we- No People- were gloating at the Yes people in case you were wondering), and then added 55 articles giving themselves the power of the President to rule unchecked and the Parliament to issue laws, and thus the modern SCAF was born.

4) Needless to say, those voters in the referendum didn’t vote to give SCAF absolute and unchecked power, and didn’t vote for the 55 articles they gave us as a bonus on top of the 8 we actually voted on, which also makes the temporary constitutional declaration and the Powers it gave SCAF constitutionally illegitimate as well. That’s two reasons why the referendum and thus resulting rule of SCAF are constitutionally illegitimate for those of you who are still counting.

5) But even if one ignored the first two reasons why this referendum can not be used to justify all the shit that’s been happening for the past 4 months, or if you didn’t care and would have voted to give SCAF the mandate to rule out of trust anyway, well, there is the little problem of how they did alter the text of the very few articles that you actually voted on when they issued the constitutional declaration. Don’t believe me? LOOK AT THIS!

Yep, even the 8 you actually voted on were tempered with. That’s Three reasons why this referendum and the resulting temporary constitutional declaration and the Rule of SCAF are constitutionally illegitimate. And in case you still don’t get it: That’s three times you were made a fool of. That’s three times your democratic will was actually subverted by the SCAF, the people you trust most, in order to ensure that the power in the country isn’t in civilian hands and instead is in theirs.

“But wait”, you will say,”forget all that. You are no better. You don’t want me to choose my constitution via parliament. You want to subvert democracy, create a national committee to write a constitution to your liking, and  impose your ideas on me and my way of life, just like SCAF did. Right?” Well, no, not really.

Voting for Parliament that will vote for a committee that will write the constitution is a novel idea, but there are two problems with it: 1) The supreme majority of , if not all, the people voted into Parliament are not qualified to write a constitution. It’s kind of like having to create a nuclear reactor, but instead of sending your nuclear-physicists, you send you in your cousin who you trust to be good and honest. Great intentions, Most-likely catastrophic results;  and 2) Requiring a 50+1 majority to pick the committee means lots of political haggling will take place, which means that our rights will be up for barter based on a group’s beliefs or political interests. Such political haggling is fine when it comes to laws, because laws can be changed easily, but this constitution is staying for a long long time. So, in essence, you will vote in people that are probably unqualified, and who will follow their own personal beliefs instead of yours, and have them  barter over voting  for a group of people who will then write your constitutional rights, instead of having a list of qualified experts (let’s say law or human rights experts), which you would vote for directly, who then would write the constitution, which is what the vote for the national committee is. The vote for a national committee means that You get to directly choose who writes your constitution, knowing full well that they are qualified for it. How that is subverting your vote, or an abortion of democracy, I have no clue.

Now I am neither calling for you to overthrow SCAF or call for a National Committee for a constitution, or even support us, the revolutionaries. God knows I am gearing up for the election season and will fight on every front I can to ensure that by hook or crook our rights are secured either way. As I stated, this an attempt to counter a talking point that is both false and used as justification for things like military trials and forced “virginity checks”. I am simply reminding you that there are many people who want to take away rights from you or fool you, but we are not one of them. We are disorganized, arrogant, drained, angry, unable to communicate our message clearly and you might not even like the way some of us look like, but we are not liars. Deal with that.

A lot of the ideas in this post are blatantly stolen from a conversation I had with Alfred Raouf, who kicks a whole lot of ass and is a lot smarter than he looks. :P

Comments

  1. So, I can’t help but remind you that the ref. wasn’t only the 8 articles it was about a plan for transition.
    You asked people to refuse that plan, which didn’t happen. And btw if people refused that plan it never meant the over throwing of the SCAF of bringing a civil panel to rule.

    It just meant media fights that would eventually lead to electing a committee that will again lead to long fights & total military rule till the new constitution is drafted.

    The referendum was a political tool that took the legitimacy off the street, showed real weight of lots of players on the ground & proved the eternal Egypt isn’t Tahrir square.

    So it was in March & we are June. Figuring out that you were tricked, trying to get around the results doesn’t only mean “revolutionaries” are slow but also too weak they are ready to do anything to avoid going to elections that will one more time prove their weight on the ground can be neglected.

    I am so sorry for being harsh in this one.

    But I am completely disappointed. Because 1st you promoted for the May27 & called it a success in the time it was a successful failure.

    And now saying that you are not asking “us” to overthrow the SCAF in the time the whole post is screaming SCAF played good politics, we lost we should do something about that.

    And this will result in nothing but more media fights & more distraction from the real fights.

    Just like the many little battles the revolutionaries engaged in and led them to where they are now. One step away from being completely alienated, and 2 steps away from being called agents by the general public.

    Good Job!

    • Alfred Raouf says:

      Sarah,
      Let me tell you a couple of things about this “plan”:
      1- SCAF made a huge propaganda campaign that this plan will bring “stability” – which did not happen -, so basically if the plan was to send SCAF members to the zoo to consult the Lion n’ the monkey about how to write Egypt’s new constitution, the vote would still have been “Yes”, to bring “stability”.
      2- Egyptian people were cornered, either this plan or “the unknown”, SCAF deliberately did NOT say what would happen if the people said “No”, cornering the people to say “Yes” since the alternative was “the darkness of the unknown”. Had SCAF availed the other plan they claimed to have, maybe the people would have chosen it.

      Voila, I think I just refuted the legitimacy of people’s choice to the “Plan”

      • hello Alfred

        I don’t think you did :)

        You just one more time twisted facts just to get us on an infinite loop or arguments.

        You one more time insisting that the people don’t know their best … i will assume you are one of the people who said “the people” supported the jan25 & that they were smart for doing it. Because it is either that people supported the jan25 or not. If not the the referendum was to prove people were against it. If they did, so they either did it because they are smart or stupid. If the later then I don’t think we should be having this conversation. because you are trying to one more time abuse the stupidity of your people?!

        & here are the facts that you twisted straighten below ;)

        & btw, anyone who thought that amendments will revive the 1971 const. just either didn’t read it, or never played politics in this country before. That 1971 constitution is going to stay in the freezer till the presidential elections. When we get an elected president it will get back to functioning. Because apparently no one is paying attention. We are having parliamentary elections & presidential elections regardless of drafting the new constitution. The new constitution will take as much time as it will even need but we will have a functioning country in process. A president by the beginning on 2012 isa. only then the 1971, with the voted on amendments will be in effect.

        See … you missed lots of pieces in the picture!

        مادة 189

        التعديل

        إضافة الفقرة التالية إلى المادة

        ولكل من رئيس الجمهورية، وبعد موافقة مجلس الوزراء، ولنصف أعضاء مجلسي الشعب والشورى، طلب إصدار دستور جديد. وتتولى جمعية تأسيسية من مائة عضو، ينتخبهم أغلبية أعضاء المجلسين غير المعينين في اجتماع مشترك، إعداد مشروع الدستور في موعد غايته ستة أشهر من تاريخ تشكيلها، ويعرض رئيس الجمهورية المشروع، خلال خمس عشرة يومًا من إعداده، على الشعب لاستفتائه في شأنه، ويعمل بالدستور من تاريخ إعلان موافقة الشعب عليه في الاستفتاء.

        إضافة المادة 189 مكررًا

        يجتمع الأعضاء غير المعينين لأول مجلسي شعب وشورى تاليين لإعلان نتيجة الاستفتاء على تعديل الدستور لاختيار الجمعية التأسيسية المنوط بها إعداد مشروع الدستور الجديد خلال ستة أشهر من انتخابهم، وذلك كله وفقًا لأحكام الفقرة الأخيرة من المادة 189

        إضافة المادة 189 مكررًا 1

        يمارس أول مجلس شورى، بعد إعلان نتيجة الاستفتاء على تعديل الدستور، بأعضائه المنتخبين اختصاصاته.

        ويتولى رئيس الجمهورية، فور انتخابه، استكمال تشكيل المجلس بتعيين ثلث أعضائه، ويكون تعيين هؤلاء لاسكمال المدة الباقية للمجلس على النحو المبين بالقانون.

        طيب الإعلان الدستورى

        أولا الشعب وافق على تعديل الدستور مؤقتاً بمعنى لم يلغى الدستور ووافق فقط على دستور من 8 مواد التى تم الإستفتاء عليهم

        الإعلان الدستورى هو دستور جديد مؤقت ينظم الحياة حتى الإنتخابات وإنتخاب مجلس شعب وتكوين حكومة وانتخاب رئيس

        هو عبارة عن بعض المواد المنظمة للحياة من الدستور القديم إضافة إلى المواد التى تم تعديلها والإستفتاء عليها

        طيب المادة 60 التى قرأها الأستاذ إبراهيم عيسى وقال انها غير المادة التى وافقنا عليها فى الإستفتاء بتقول ايه؟

        بتقول الآتى:

        (مـــــادة 60 )

        يجتمع الأعضاء غير المعينين لأول مجلسى شعب وشورى فى اجتماع مشترك ، بدعوة من المجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلحة ، خلال ستة أشهر من انتخابهم ، لإنتخاب جمعية تأسيسية من مائة عضو ، تتولى إعداد مشروع دستور جديد للبلاد فى موعد غايته ستة أشهر من تاريخ تشكيلها، ويُعرض المشروع ، خلال خمسة عشر يوماً من إعداده ، على الشعب لاستفتائه فى شأنه ، ويعمل بالدستور من تاريخ إعلان موافقة الشعب عليه فى الاستفتاء

        طيب. هو بيقول ان المادة دى فيها “بدعوة من المجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلحة” وبيقول اننا مقلناش نعم عالمادة ديه

        طيب تعالى نقرا المادة رقم 56 من الإعلان الدستورى

        البند رقم 10

        يتولى المجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلحة إدارة شئون البلاد، ولـه فى سبيل ذلك مباشرة السلطات الآتية :

        10- السلطات والاختصاصات الأخرى المقررة لرئيس الجمهورية بمقتضى القوانين واللوائح .

        وللمجلس أن يفوض رئيسه أو أحد أعضائه فى أى من اختصاصاته .

        طيب نقرأ كمان المادة رقم 61 من الإعلان الدستورى

        يستمر المجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلحة فى مباشرة الاختصاصات المحددة فى هذا الإعلان وذلك لحين تولى كل من مجلسى الشعب والشورى لاختصاصاتهما , وحتى انتخاب رئيس الجمهورية ومباشرته مهام منصبه كلُ فى حينه.

        الخلاصة:

        الأستاذ إبراهيم عيسى يريد أن يقول أن المادة 189 المعدلة تنص أن رئيس الجمهورية والمجلس هم من يطلبون تعديل الدستور وهذا ما وافقنا عليه

        ويقول أن المادة 60 فى الإعلان الدستورى قالت أن المجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلحة ومجلس الشعب هم من يطلبون

        ويقول أن الإعلان الدستورى يخالف التعديلات الدستورية

        ولكن بالنظر إلى المادة رقم 56 البند رقم 10 سنجد أن المجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلحة له كافة صلاحيات الرئيس

        أى أن المجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلحة حين يدعو مجلس الشعب لعمل دستور جديد سيقوم بذلك بصفته يملك صلاحيات رئيس الجمهورية

        وفى المادة رقم 61 نجد أن المجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلحة ستكون له صلاحيات الرئيس حتى انتخاب رئيس الجمهورية ومباشرته مهام منصبه

        وبكده حنلاقى ان مفيش أدنى تعارض بين ما وافق عليه الشعب وبين الإعلان الدستورى

        • btw as for the other plan, it is unfair to say the Egyptian people weren’t aware of it.

          It is in simple words a long transitional period with more power struggle from the people who are so little to rule yet making too much noise counting on the media support & the people who have the streets & the real power.

          So the referendum just put an early end to this endless struggle. & it was what led to the successful failure in May27!

          More talk about it, engaging in fights with the SCAF actually give them support & more legitimacy.

  2. “I am simply reminding you that there are many people who want to take away rights from you or fool you, but we are not one of them.

    An excellent point but a tough selling point in a country that in which the people are overwhelmingly of a religion that states they have no rights and that the Mullah will tell them what rights they have. who has them, and who can take them away.

    People in countries without a history of democracy want security and stability more than they want rights or democracy. Democracy is an inherently unstable form of government, especially in its early years.

    You have a tough road ahead getting people to buy in to a period of democratic transition vs a strong stable form of government based on established religious principles.

    There is no doubt the democracy is by far the better choice in the long run but people are looking to get through the next year, not at a ten or twenty year plan.

    Good luck,

  3. Nicely made points. Just a few remarks:
    1) My understanding is that in the Egyptian parliament, you need more than a two thirds majority to pass any motion. That is even worse that 50+1.
    2) I would have wished that you actually CALLED for the national committee for a constitution and invited fellow revolutionaries to see how this can be made appealing and workable. I am not happy that we are currently making strong statements, but are sort of tiptoeing around them when we should be making them into a REALITY.
    3) One way if that we have a Wikipedia like declaration, get people to put in their feedback and edit, build a consensus an then start a massive signing campaign, along with Demos in Tahrir.

  4. Youssef Elmasri says:

    I agree with what you said. But I thought a majority of two thirds and not 50+1% were required for the selection of the committee. Do you have a source for that?

  5. Assem Amin says:

    The problem is that 90% or probably more of your followers fully acknowledge the essence of your post, so practically we are talking to ourselves.
    I have talking to taxi drivers, security guards, etc, and though it seems to work, I feel we are going nowhere.
    The majority of the people in this country need rehabilitation for the next decade or two before they can understand or interpret things the way we do.
    As you, I, and most people we know will fight this battle to the end, we all know that unless we go back to streets and sit-in, it is likely that we lose and live with broken hearts or lose and leave Egypt to its ignorant majority.

  6. Valerie says:

    Keep at it. Good luck, and God Bless.

  7. You are preaching to the converted, but amazing post as always.
    Translate this into Arabic and maybe get on one of those late night talk shows, then we might find a glimmer of hope.

  8. 80% of the Egyptian population will never read what you are writing. Of the remaining 20% about 5% may understand your logical arguments. All of which goes to show you are winding yourself and everyone trying to understand your logical arguments into knots of frustration.

    Would you just get 5 or 6 simple steps clear about where the country should be going and stick to those. Stop trying to get people to follow your logic – THEY CAN’T! All these arguments and debate is going nowhere. Clarify and MAYBE some will listen and act.

    Anyone debating this with Sandmonkey don’t bother getting upset with me – you obviously belong to the 5% who can follow the discussion!

    • Yehia abdelnour says:

      From my understanding the constitution comitee doesnt have to be from parlimentaries… It is up to the parlemantaries to elect whomever they see fit whther from their own members or from the oufside ….
      As for the scaf they were very explicit in all tv progra
      S prior to the referendum that they were not resurecting the 1971 constitution that was “killed” by january 25 but that they would rather do a i3lam dostory that includes the items that we were to vote on and to legitimise their presence during the transitional period . Had their presence not being legitmised by an i3lan dostoury all the laws that are being voted right now could have been deemed unconstitunional .

  9. salwa elfekky says:

    Mahmoud, you should start blogging in Arabic if you want ur analysis to reach a larger number of concerned readers. Also, if u stick to short sentences and short paragraphs u will be able to reach more people other than the fraction who r intellectual enough to read ur in depth analysis :) )
    Salwa Elfekky

  10. A great article, but as Ahmed stated, you are preaching to the converted. At the risk of harping, how are your words going to reach the ‘silent majority’?

    I’ve a couple of Egyptian friends and am pretty certain they don’t read your blog. Would it be useful if I posted the links to these articles on my fb so my Egyptian friends will see them, and ask them to pass the articles on to their friends and family? That I will happily do, but it doesn’t even begin to touch the many other Egyptians who also don’t read your blog.

    Your words need to reach the silent majority, via their TVs, Radios, and newspapers, into their homes, where they can mull over your comments, digest them in the privacy of their space, and with their friends, and let your words take root in their minds.

    SM, if you can teach an non-political Cdn. like me about Egyptian politics, you can definitely teach the silent majority in your country, and affect the way they think. You can bring them new ideas, challenge them in ways that won’t make them fear a New Egypt. But you have to reach more than just those thousands who follow you online and those you stood with to overthrow the dictator. You need to reach all those who didn’t stand in Tahrir, who didn’t protest, who watched their TVs with concern, but kept out of it. Those people need your words the most because they are in the dark, relying only on the media for information. So become their source of information.

    Find media sources that won’t edit you, will let you regularly contribute. What about a Revolution Newsletter? Sent regularly via mail, it would get into most homes. If I can be of any help, let me know.

    • SM, I hope you don’t mind my doing this: I’ve posted links to your last three blog posts on my FB, directed to my Egyptian friends, with the suggestion that they print them out, and circulate them to those who haven’t seen them or read your blog. Maybe you can reach a few more people that way. Maybe they too will post them on their FBs etc and spread the word. Hope that’s ok w/you.

  11. Your characterization of a committee voted on by parliamentary representatives versus a national committee voted on directly by the people is flawed.

    First, you assume, on no basis, that the committee chosen by the representatives will be comprised of the representatives themselves (the bit about them not knowing how to write a constitution). Clearly though, these representatives would be chosen on the grounds that people trust them to make good decisions – chief among them being the decision to elect a committee of competent individuals to draft the nation’s constitution.

    Second, you claim that a committee chosen by representatives will be influenced by political whims whereas a national committee, directly voted upon, will provide greater protection of constitutional rights. Well, who are these Egyptian angels that you believe will set aside any political or idealogical motivations and should be tasked with this lofty responsibility?

    Moreover, you ignore the crucial point of how the so-called national committee would be chosen. That is, who would put together the list that would be put to a vote? SCAF – whom you time and again underscore are illegitimate? Or the “revolutionaries” – whom you yourself claim are “disorganized, arrogant, drained, angry, [and] unable to communicate [their] message clearly”?

  12. يا حبيبي إكتب بالعربي ؛ طول ما أنت بتدون بيلنجلزيه بتخبط راسك في الحيطة و بتنفخ في قربة مقطوعة … بتكب بيلنجلذيه لمين؟ لصحباك من الجامعة الأمريكية ولا للجانب ؛ مش فاهم صراحة

  13. Madconductor says:

    Look, if it’s a Constitution you need, why don’t you just use the one we have here in the U.S.? We’re not using it anymore. It worked great for almost 200 years.

  14. abu Faris says:

    وكان محمد على الغش والمغتصب.

  15. Ibrahim says:

    “By hook or by crook”? That sounds very NDP-esque.

  16. ألرأى السديد للأستاذ الدكتور نور الدين فرحات بما أن كثير من الصحف الأن بسبيل عمل استطلاعات للرأى فى هذا الموضوع الشائك مع ملاحظة أن 40% من الشعب المصرى من الاميين فالنعمل استطلاعات للرأى لأساتذة القانون الدستورى وهم د. امال ويصا المتخصصون قى هذا الموضوع

  17. A German from Berlin says:

    Well, how shall I say this. I think you people there like to talk a lot and you enjoy yourselves when you are right and make a big fuss when you disagree. But I am afraid that you don’t like to act. You have a massive overhead when you talk and when something has to be done it takes so much talk and in the end 5 people were involved to get one person do the job. That’s for example when a wall needs to be painted.
    On the other hand in politics I am not sure how this has to be done in your country to be efficient. I have the feeling that once you have proven you can actually move something you can become a politician.

    Therefore I would suggest that instead of only talking, form a comittee. Write a constitution or get someone to do it for you. Take samples from other countries and pick what suits your needs. Get help from appropriate experts to put it in arabic words. Give explations in simple phrases and a simple example of what it’s for and in smaller print details for whomever can understand it. Then spread it throughout the whole country as paper and by word of mouth.

    Form another commitee. Figure out the exact changes you want to have in your country. Reduce corruption to a minimum, expand local food production, real police instead of thugs… You need to form a party and if you are not allowed to fight for it on Tahrir. The Tahrir party can start off even as an “against”-Party who is first of all against everything that you think is wrong. The Greens in Germany started that way and even conservative Merkel is now also for leaving nuclear energy, like the Greens already decided when they made it into the government. Anyway, no matter if you are a party or not be an opinion with a recognizable brand and put these point out. If you don’t have a candidate negotiate with candidates about your points and endorse the one who is willing to go your way. Just make sure you are heard. Develop phrases that poeple can understand and that separate you from everything you oppose. I don’t know if that can be said in your country, but for example “virginity is private” would make sense in many ways. It is against virginity checks, it is against MB who might want to get into the same business the SCAF is in. It is also a hint towards a secular government. Or a phrase that expresses that sentencing can only take place if a judge ordered it and that there can’t be beatings and other torture by police or military. They can take someone and lock them up for 24 hours, but then they have to release the person unless a judge oders otherwise. There is no need for beating someone while they are in custody. “True stability by democracy” or “where is the stability SCAF?”
    All you revolutionaries who are posting online, why don’t you set up a site where you start working out point you all agree on. Give jobs to groups of you who should work out things like talking to a particular expert about a perticular issue. Talk to another expert about the same issue. Compare what they said. Restrict posting if necessary..
    Talk to business owners. Ask them what they need and make a priority list and work out solutions. Then go back to the business and ask them what they think about these solutions. Or even ask them what they propose as a solution.
    You were plenty of people during the demonstrations and the intellectual leaders have a lot of credit they should use to get everyone involved.
    And keep on demonstration until all your demands are met. It is your god given right. There is noone above the individual except for God. And you only follow your rulers if you chose them and if a morally flawless law requires you to do so or if you voluntarily choose to follow.
    God permitted the rule of Mubarak, Assad or the Sauds. That doesn’t mean they are legitimate rulers. Otherwise a murder would also be legitimate , just because God permitted it to happen.

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  19. Hi a long and indepth article. Covered everything I needed to know. Thanks.