Friday, November 18, 2011
Islamists versus the army, a new phenomenon in Egypt
Impression by Al Ahram Online of the demonstration.
Hundreds of thousand of people all over Egypt have demonstrated on Friday, according to Al Ahram, against the way the military is handling the expected handover of the power to civilian institutions. The main ire of the protesters was directed towards a document about the make-up of a constituent Assembly that has to be formed after the parliamentary elections of 28 November and that has the task of drawing up a new constitution. The disputed document, called the Selmy-document after deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Selmi who oversaw the process of drawing it up, gives the army an important say in the formation of this assemble and the process of writing the new constitution.
Of the participating Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), were the most visible, outnumbering their counterparts. The group has notably boycotted most of the million-man marches that took place following the popular 18-day uprising. Apart from flags, shirts and green caps emblazoned with the groups logo, two criss-crossed swords, the Islamist group came readied with their banners bearing emblems of the FJP and the Brotherhood’s student groups. Several banners indicated the various members’ governorate of origin in a show of their mobilisation power. Salafists were also heavily represented in Tahrir, particularly by Al-Nour (Light)and Al-Asala (Authenticity) parties, believed to be the two largest Salafist parties in Egypt.Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya also participated in the demonstration, stating that the proposed principles “do not reflect the will of the people”. Al-Jamaa spokesperson Assem Abdel Maged said stressed that “the will of the people is the most important thing, and the ‘El-Selmi document’ goes against this will.”
The Selmi-document earlier raised objections from almost all political parties since it granted the Egyptian armed forces political powers far greater than those given parliament or the president. Among the communiqué’s most controversial points were Article 9, stipulating that the military budget remain confidential; Article 2 (second section), giving the military the right to “object” to certain articles of the new constitution; and Article 3, which notes that, in the event that the constituent assembly fails to draw up a new constitution within a six-month period, the SCAF – in its capacity as acting president – would have the authority to draw up a brand-new assembly.
Since then discussion have taken place between the government and the parties. Some points were dropped or amended in such a way that several parties dropped most of their objections. And the discussions still continue, writes Al-Ahram- However, a provision that the Assembly will be constituted from inside and outside the new parliament, and will be chosen from among a broad spectre of public figures, seems to be still standing. This is blocking the way for the islamists who are pretty sure of obtaining a strong position, if not a majority in the new parliament, and who therefore had counted on having also a majority in the new Assembly.
It is ironic that it is now the islamists that are on a confrontation course with the military, where it just some weeks ago still looked as if islamist and military were had in glove. However, the islamists are far from being the only ones with objections. The April 6 Youth movement already called for a new Demonstration, next Friday. After last Friday´s "Friday of One Demand" protest, they want to have a ``Guarding Friday" to demand free parliamentary elections. The group also wants to demand the expulsion of candidates from the now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP), who are seeking to get back into the parliament.
The Administrative Court of Dakahliya governorate returned a verdict that could prevent anyone from the former ruling NDP from running in elections. The ruling, nonetheless, was later reversed and now the remnants of the former regime seemed poised to be involved in the ballot.