Egyptians voted on a constitution drafted by Islamists on Saturday in a second round of balloting expected to approve a charter that opponents say will create deeper turmoil in the Arab world’s most populous nation.
Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Mursi, who was elected in June, say the constitution is vital to moving Egypt towards democracy two years after Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in a popular uprising. It will help restore the stability needed to fix an economy that is on the ropes, they say.
But the opposition says the document is divisive and has accused Mursi of pushing through a text that favors his Islamist allies while ignoring the rights of Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, as well as women.
As polling opened on Saturday, a coalition of Egyptian rights groups reported a number of irregularities.
Share prices on Egypt’s stock exchange have plunged almost 9.5 per cent, days after President Mohamed Morsi assumed sweeping powers that sparked clashes and polarised the country’s politics.
The main EGX-30 index shed 9.49 per cent by midday (10:00 GMT) on Sunday to reach 4,923.19 points, according to the Egyptian Exchange, with trading suspended for half an hour due to intense investor selling.
The bourse suspended trading for 30 minutes after intense selling by investors, as shares slumped in the first session since the president’s announcement.
But the slide continued as soon as share dealing resumed in the face of the deepening political crisis.
The drop comes as Egyptians have been deeply divided by Morsi’s move to forbid the judiciary from challenging his decisions until a new parliament is elected, with rival rallies sparking violence in several major cities.
The Muslim Brotherhood has called for nationwide protests on Sunday in support of Morsi’s decree, which has put him on a collision course with the judiciary and with many of the political forces that brought down Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising in early 2011.
CNN’s Erin Burnett talks to Activist and Blogger Mahmoud Salem, a.k.a “SandMonkey” about the anti-American protests happening in Egypt. Salem has been a popular voice in Egypt since the start of the ‘Arab Spring’.
BURNETT: We have played that before on this show. We found that on YouTube. That was a cleric leading a rally in Cairo.
Well, that cleric has been named to the Human Rights Commission under President Mohamed Morsi.
Earlier today, I spoke with prominent Egyptian blogger and activist Mahmoud Salem and I asked him if that video and promotion of the cleric to the Human Rights Commission was shocking to him at all.
MAHMOUD SALEM, BLOGGER: No, I think we’re dealing with slightly, I don’t want to say extremists because I think you know, extremists have some sense of their actions. I think we’re dealing with people that have dropped the ball
BURNETT: Was Hosni Mubarak better when it comes to certain things like women’s rights or progress than Mohamed Morsi?
SALEM: I think what we’re dealing with is a different frame of reference here. I think Mubarak didn’t care for women’s rights or human rights for that matter, but he had to maintain some sort of a front about it. You know, because his words don’t matter, he did not execute them. You know, I think what we’re having now is a more clear oppressive regime. You know, one that basically doesn’t care what keeping pretenses with the world.
BURNETT: When you say more oppressive, it sounds like you’re saying that current government is more oppressive than what was a 30- year dictatorship.
SALEM: Yes, let me give you an example. Just two days ago, just a few days ago, actually, this young Christian guy called Alber Saber got arrested from his house. Apparently, he posted the video, the trailer of the offensive Muslim video on his Facebook page and that has prompted a mob attack on his house and the police to arrest him and beat him up and charge him with disdainful religion, which means he’s going to spend two years in jail.
First of all, it’s amazing that in our country, our government, that basically was brought on by a revolution that started through a Facebook page, that shared content that the previous regime thought was offensive, but never actually like jail the people who are running it, at least not for long, you know? It’s now having government that is going the same thing, except this time, they’re jailing them and they want to put them for two years.
They are fantasies about control and the way we’re supposed to act that don’t correspond with reality or the world or anything, you know? And it’s going to be their end. Hosni Mubarak did not reach that level of insanity after 30 years of his rule. He doesn’t reach the level of reach and connection between, you know, the businessman and his (INAUDIBLE) government corruption the way Morsi and his (INAUDIBLE) have been doing for the past two months.
BURNETT: President Obama said last week in an interview that got a lot of attention here in the United States, that Egypt is not an ally, but not an enemy. But he said it is no technically an ally. Obviously, there is a legal definition to ally in terms of treaties.
But Egypt gets a lot of money from the United States and a lot of Americans think you get that money when you were an ally. We put the question to you, Mahmoud. Is Egypt an ally of America?
SALEM: Well, the current government is not an ally of America. That’s number one. Number two, if the United States wants to cut the aid, please do it. It’s not really going to affect Egyptians. You know, the majority of the aid goes to the military any way. We don’t see that money.
FIFTY YEARS ago, drawn to the perceived dynamism of fresh, young military leaders, scholars and policy analysts became enamored of the potential role of the military in political, economic and social modernization. The “man on horseback,” as S. E. Finer described it, was seen as best positioned to effect the transition from developing to modern societies. The military, it was believed, could draw on the institutional cohesion and its monopoly of coercive power to marshal the resources and will necessary to push societies forward. Egypt was studied as a prime example.
Things did not quite turn out as the academics expected. After overthrowing the monarchy and seizing power in 1952, the so-called Free Officers in Egypt constricted the political space and monopolized power, driving Islamists underground and marginalizing old-time liberal political elements. Their sweeping modernization programs nearly bankrupted Egypt. Ultimately, the monopoly of power achieved by Egypt’s revolutionists, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, primarily was used to maintain the military’s dominant position and ensure that its interests were protected and advanced.
To be sure, Nasser had grand—indeed, grandiose—dreams to revamp Egyptian society. In the name of agricultural reform, he broke up large landholdings and parceled out land to Egypt’s fellahin, or peasants. Though a socially progressive move, this initiative undercut agricultural economies of scale and helped transform Egypt into a major importer of wheat and other basic foodstuffs. In the name of reversing the evils of capitalism, the government became the initiator and owner of large-scale manufacturing enterprises, which ensured mass employment but also drained the national budget as huge losses ensued. Nationalized financial entities experienced a similar fate. In the name of promoting pan-Arab secular nationalism, Nasser threatened conservative Arab neighbors, ultimately involving Egypt in a messy civil war in Yemen that severely weakened Egypt’s military capabilities in the years before the 1967 war with Israel. By the late 1970s, a decade after Nasser’s death and more than twenty-five years into the Egyptian revolution, the best that could be said about the military-dominated Egypt was that national pride had been restored and all Egyptians suffered equally.
IN MANY respects, the next forty years under Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak represented an effort to correct some of the missteps that occurred after the 1952 revolution. Sadat scaled down the rhetoric against Arab monarchies; switched Cold War allegiances from the Soviet Union to the United States; made war and then peace with Israel; tried to open the economy to private-sector activity; and experimented with a government-led multiparty system. Despite all these initiatives designed to correct the course of the Egyptian revolution, Sadat’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition elements ultimately led to his assassination at the hands of Islamist radicals within the military.
Many in Egypt today stayed home. That enthusiasm and joy to be voting in a free election for the first time had given way to resignation, during the second round of presidential voting, which started yesterday.
That’s the picture reports out of Egypt today are painting.
Perhaps that was most evident with Hussein, a Cairo taxi driver that Ahram, the Egyptian newspaper, spoke to at one of the polls.
“Why should I vote? My vote doesn’t count and the picture is very clear - they want [Ahmed] Shafiq and they are going to make him the next president whoever we vote for,” he told the paper. But he voted and he also voted during the first round of presidential elections.
“At the time I thought we were having real elections but now I know it’s a soap opera; just like the Ramadan TV series,” he said.
This past Thursday, Egypt’s high court threw the country into uncertainty when it declared that some parliamentary elections were illegal and thus the whole parliament should be dissolved. Many also saw the ruling of the supreme court — with most judges appointed before the fall of Hosni Mubarak — as a “smooth military coup.”
Hosni Mubarak Sentenced to Life Term by Egyptian Court: ‘It is all an act. It is a show. It is a provocation.”
An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced former President Hosni Mubarak to life in prison as an accomplice in the killing of unarmed demonstrators during the protests that ended his nearly 30-year rule.
But a conviction that once promised to deliver a triumph for the rule of law in Egypt and the Arab world — the first Arab strongman jailed by his own citizens — instead brought tens of thousands of Egyptians back into the streets. They denounced the verdict as a sham because the court also acquitted many officials more directly responsible for the police who killed the demonstrators, and a broad range of lawyers and political leaders said Mr. Mubarak’s conviction was doomed to reversal on appeal.
Presiding over a three-judge panel, Judge Ahmed Rafaat said that prosecutors had presented no evidence that either Mr. Mubarak or his top aides had directly ordered the killing of protesters. Instead, the judge found that Mr. Mubarak, 84, was an “accessory to murder” because he failed to stop the killing, a rationale that lawyers said would not meet the usual requirements for a murder conviction under Egyptian or international law.
The judges also sentenced Mr. Mubarak’s feared former interior minister, Habib el-Adly, to the same penalty for the same reason. But they dismissed corruption charges against Mr. Mubarak and his deeply unpopular sons, Alaa and Gamal, on technical grounds.
By nightfall, demonstrators filled Tahrir Square in a protest that matched the size and ideological diversity of the early days of the revolt, with Islamists and liberals once again protesting side by side. Protesters poured into the streets of Alexandria, Suez and other cities to rail against what they saw as a miscarriage of justice.
“It is all an act. It is a show,” said Alaa Hamam, 38, a Cairo University employee joining a protest in Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the uprising. “It is a provocation.”
Deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison on Saturday for ordering the killing of protesters during the uprising that swept him from power last year.
Presiding judge Ahmed Refaat also sentenced his former interior minister, Habib el-Adli, to life in prison on the same charge.
Mubarak was wheeled into court on a hospital gurney to hear the verdict in his trial on charges of graft and complicity in the killings of protesters during the uprising that ended his 30-year rule.
State media reported that other defendants including his two sons, who are on trial with Mubarak, arrived at the court earlier.
State television showed Mubarak arriving at the court on the outskirts of Cairo in a helicopter from the military-run hospital where he has been held in custody.
He was transferred to a white ambulance on a stretcher, wearing sunglasses. He had his arms behind his head. A sheet covered the lower half of his body.
Piles of bound court papers were stacked next to the judges’ bench, the television footage showed.
“Day of the verdict for the pharaoh,” wrote the Al-Watan newspaper in a front-page headline, a reference to Mubarak who was often called a modern version of Egypt’s ancient rulers.
It was a moment that Egyptians never thought possible - that one day, the strongman who ruled their country for over 30 years would wind up caged and visibly enfeebled, facing charges of murder, embezzlement, and misuse of public funds, while a judge pronounced sentence in a court of law.
When former president Hosni Mubarak was wheeled into the courtroom back in July 2011 and gave a curt “Present, your honor” as the judge called out his name, the excitement and momentousness of the occasion was clear. People across the region sat glued to their television screens, transfixed by the image of a dictator toppled and the first grindings of a judicial process designed to hold him to account.
Now, 10 months later, the country is focused on elections and the upcoming transfer of power - and grappling with how that transition will take place. In what seems like an afterthought of the revolutionary moment, now long past, Mubarak, his sons and aides will have a verdict and sentencing tomorrow.
Mubarak faces three charges: Ordering the deaths of peaceful demonstrators who took to the streets back in January and February of last year; misuse of public funds relating to the negotiations behind the awarding of the natural gas export contract to Israel; and corruption for accepting a bribe from fugitive Egyptian businessman Hussein Salem.
Mubarak’s sons face a corruption charge as well, in addition to a recent and separate accusation of insider trading on the stock market. All have pleaded not guilty.
Protesters at Tahrir Square helped lead the overthrow of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak. He was deposed by the military that lost confidence in their former leader.
The crowd was as large as almost any that gathered in Tahrir Square since the protests that forced out former President Hosni Mubarak in February, 2011. Even more unusual in the increasingly polarized political climate, Islamists, liberals and leftists all found common ground on at least one front: to demand the generals who took power with Mr. Mubarak’s ouster finally give it up.
The catalysts for the protest were the military-led government’s management of the early stages of the election and in particular the selection of the candidates. In the last two weeks, Mr. Mubarak’s former spy chief, Omar Suleiman, launched a short-lived campaign from inside the office of the intelligence services that triggered fears of a plot to restore the ousted order. In that same period, a secretive commission of Mubarak-appointed judges unexpectedly ruled that Mr. Suleiman and two Islamists considered front-runners for president were ineligible to run. And the top military leader suggested that a new constitution should be written and ratified before a handover of power, meaning the military leaders would control that process, too.
‘The military council is putting the people in a very hard situation, and people are angry because their demands have not come true,’ said Mohamed Hedaya, 19, a student from the countryside who wears the wispy beard of an ultra-conservative Salafi Muslim, and was out in the streets for the protest.
‘People feel like the old regime has not gone anywhere, and under the army we are living with them still.’
Protesters from liberal groups and Islamist movements marched to Tahrir from landmarks across the capital, while others from the provinces beyond arrived in a fleet of chartered buses. Egyptian flags competed for space with the Muslim Brotherhood’s green flag and the black flags of the ultra-conservative Salafi movement, while a handful of kites in the national colors of red, white and black bobbed in the sky overhead.
‘The people will not accept a rigged election,’ declared one banner.
The military has rejected several leading candidates for the presidency, and the military has further suggested that they be the ones to write and ratify a constitution before any change in political power, but that move only smacks of trying to continue and formalize control in a new ruling elite that comes from the military.
Considering that some of the remaining candidates are former members of the anciens regime, Egyptians aren’t looking too kindly upon the situation.
History does seem to be repeating itself. After all, it was a military coup that led to the rise of Gamel Abdel Nasser in 1956 until his death in 1970, when he was succeeded by Anwar Sadat. Following Sadat’s assassination at the hands of terrorists associated with Egyptian Islamic Jihad (including spiritual leader Sheikh Abdel Rahman who was later involved in the 1993 WTC bombing), his vice president, Hosni Mubarak was selected to run the country.
Now, the military is hoping to be the one to select the next generation of Egyptian leadership.
It’s little surprise that there’s agreement among and across the political spectrum that the military has to give up its hold on power. That was one of the longstanding complaints about Mubarak and the old regime. Now, that the military is firmly in control, they’re not about to give up the power and they’re going to quickly find out that the goodwill they gained from refusing to take Mubarak’s orders to disperse the crowds of protesters by armed force will disappear.
Interim military rulers would be held accountable after handing power to civilians for any mistakes made during their time at the helm, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, set to be the biggest party in Egypt’s new freely elected parliament, said on Friday.
The military budget will also be subject to parliamentary oversight, the Brotherhood’s general guide, Mohamed Badie, said in an interview with private Egyptian channel Dream TV, three days before the first session of parliament’s lower house.
The military council, which took over from Hosni Mubarak last February after the president of 30 years was ousted during 18 days of popular protests, has promised to relinquish power to civilian officials once presidential elections are completed in June. But activists fear it is actually working behind the scenes to maintain sway over Egyptian politics.
Some analysts have suggested the military will not fully abandon politics unless the Muslim Brotherhood and other prominent political parties offer guarantees that it will not face legal retribution over the killing of protesters.
Mubarak, 83, was put on trial following the 2011 uprising, in which at least 850 people lost their lives.
Badie said it was time to work through the institutions of state and not to make an enemy of the army through repeated protests organized by youth groups opposed to military rule.
He rejected comparisons between the military council and what he described as Mubarak’s corrupt regime. But he warned that the new elected parliament would hold the military council responsible for its conduct during its interim rule, in which dozens of protesters have been killed and wounded.
“We say that we respect and appreciate the army but the military council must be held accountable for any mistakes… No one is above accountability,” Badie said.
“This is a transitional period and we urge everyone to cooperate until we reach safety. Then the free, elected People’s Assembly will adopt all remaining demands to ensure they are achieved. The first of your demands is for those who made mistakes to be held accountable and for the rights of the martyrs and the wounded. Those who made mistakes will be summoned by the People’s Assembly and held to account.”
On the foreign policy front, Badie said the Brotherhood would respect Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel as it respects any international agreement, provided the Jewish state did not violate the terms of the deal.