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Human Rights Brief




Although the current political landscape differs from the day preceding the January 25 revolution, Egypt appears to suffer from a familiar syndrome: for every step taken towards meaningful reform, it falls back two steps due to entrenched counter- revolutionary forces. This began the moment the military took control of the executive branch on February 11, 2011 only to unilaterally replace the 1971 constitution with its own interim Constitutional Declaration on March 30, 2011. This dubious document unilaterally imposed by SCAF barely holds Egypt together as the country faces one legal crisis after another.

Even when Parliament existed, the Constitutional Declaration did not clarify parliament's governing authority viz-a-viz the executive branch. Article 141 of the provisional constitution grants the President the power to appoint the Prime Minister from within the ranks of the political party holding the most political party holding the most parliamentary seats.

However, this article also allows the President to sack the Prime Minister from office without parliament's approval. Article 76 of the Interim Constitutional Declaration does not permit appeals of rulings by the presidential elections commission on election disputes, jeopardizing the legitimacy of the presidential elections as those alleging fraud and voting irregularities are denied a neutral and impartial review. Just as problematic is the SCAF's removal of the 64-member parliamentary quota for women, thereby decreasing female representation in the People's Assembly from 12 percent (64 members)to less than two percent (12 members, three of which were appointed by the SCARF). Finally, the same police and internal security forces that abused tens of thousands of Egyptians during the revolution remain intact eighteen months later.

These legal shortcomings, among others, contribute to a continued sense of instability among a majority Egyptians. Ironically, it is the same instability initiated by remnants of the Mubarak regime that bootstraps them back into political office. Former Prime Minister Ahmend Shafiq's victory in the first round of presidential elections was due to a populace disappointed in the revolutionaries who they deemed incapable of delivering the goals of the revolutistability, dignity, and prosperity. Indeed, Shafiq's campaign motto promised to bring back the stability that allegedly self-indulgent and rabble-rousing revolutionaries elimitated at the expense of ordinary Egyptians. In addition,Shafiq's viability as a candidate was a result of the quick remobilization of the National Democratic Party (NDP) leadership. The NDP had lay tactically dormant in the first twelve months of the revolution only to later re-emerge and prove correct fears the Mubarak-era political apparatus is far from eliminated. Thus, whatever progress achieved by reformers since Mubarak's overthrow is quickly being underminded by counter-revolutionaries and the military.

Against this political backdrop, this essay argues Egypt is still in the midst of a revolution and has yet to enter the post-revolutionary phase of nation-building. The essay starts by providing a brief summary of the political context of the post-Mubarak transition. Central to understanding the context is identifying the key political actors and their roles in the ongoing struggle to reshape Egypt's political landscape. Finally, this essay highlights the importance of the rule of law to steer Egypt through an inevitably turbulent phase at this historic juncture. In many ways, the heated contestation for power is a healthy indicator of Egyptians' investment in their nation in stark contrast to the pre-revolution sense of hopeless complacency. But such contestations can be politically debilitating if they are not constrained by laws that ensure a fair and level playing field among the various political actors, allow the citizenry to hold elected officials accountable for failing to improve the economy, and guarantee one--not even a President, as evidenced by the recent trial of Mubarak--is above the law. Without rule of law, however, the citizenry will again disengage from the political system as it discovers its votes and voices are irrelevant to the broader power struggle between the military and Muslim Brotherhood.

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American University Washington College of Law

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