In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

What’s next for Egypt?

Posted by seumasach on February 15, 2011

Al-Ahram

10th-16th February, 2011

After four military communiqu…s issued by the now ruling Higher Military Council (HMC) in the wake of the stepping down of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s future seems open to many questions.

The ruling regime and its party have now been all but fully dismantled. With the exception of the still outlawed but now recognised Muslim Brotherhood, the political opposition is largely ineffective while the leaders of the “25 January Revolution”, which forced an end to the 30-year rule of Mubarak after 18 days of nationwide demonstrations, are not claiming any political status.

Meanwhile, the HMC is trying hard to stick to its announced pledge to work to induce order without stepping on the civil nature of the state.

Official and opposition sources say there are five zones of immediate operation that the HMC is consulting on at present.

The first is to restore law and order to the nation. The Ministry of Interior is working in parallel with the HMC to restore order on the streets, rebuild confidence between the public and the police forces — after long years of widespread complaints about police brutality and violations — and to reconstruct the operation of the ministry to minimise the current state of dependence on the armed forces in cementing home-front security.

However, according to Ministry of Interior sources, this is a long-term operation and there are no guarantees how it will evolve in the next few weeks and whether developments on the ground would allow the military to “leave the streets” soon.

Four days into the demonstrations, the police retreated from all of Egypt’s streets in spectacular fashion, leaving a serious and dangerous security vacuum.

The second point of the HMC’s attention is the constitution. In theory, when Mubarak’s vice president Omar Suleiman announced on Friday that the president had stepped down and that the HMC had taken over in running the state, the constitution would have suspended and parliament dissolved, de facto if not de jure.

This, however, has not been announced by the HMC which is still examining its alternatives to avoid stepping away from the constitutional framework. Sources say that the HMC is consulting with constitutional experts on possible exits.

The exits would have to take into consideration the timeframe and logistics required to hold early parliamentary elections if the HMC chooses to announce that parliament is dissolved, the process of writing a new constitution or re-writing the currently applied constitution and the preparations for presidential elections.

Closely linked to this constitutional dynamic is the promised end to the three-decade application of the emergency laws put in place when former President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981 on the eve of Mubarak’s ascent to power.

State-management is the third stage for the HMC. In theory, the HMC could have dissolved the cabinet of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq which was sworn in late January. However, it did not.

Shafiq and the cabinet would be acting-cabinet for a few weeks, if not months. The objective, say official sources, is to steer clear of further disturbances. “We cannot have three cabinets in less than a week. This would be chaotic,” said one source.

The current cabinet will operate with a focus on cementing a largely devastated economy, securing sufficient supplies of basic commodities and running the key state facilities, especially the Suez Canal.

Foreign policy is also a top issue for the HMC which will not be looking at the details of Egypt’s international relations but working to secure some basic targets. These include sending enough guarantees to all concerned international partners that Egypt is turning into a full-fledged civil and considerably democratic state which would observe all international commitments.

“This certainly includes our peace treaty with Israel,” said an Egyptian diplomat. “There is no change, none whatsoever, in relations with Israel.” He added that while the economic track of the relationship might be slightly slowed it would eventually pick up “and the peace treaty would not be touched.”

A fifth but crucial task for the HMC is securing a fair and prompt legal process of fact-finding in relation to human rights violations that occurred against demonstrators and to widespread allegations of corruption and abuse of power levelled against former and current cabinet ministers and members of the all but defunct National Democratic Party.

The HMC is expected to issue a series of communiqu…s that should provide a road map and timeframe for the transition of power in Egypt.

But it is not clear whether the turning over of the Mubarak-rule page will take weeks or months. It is equally unclear who are the possible contenders for the presidential seat that Mubarak occupied from 14 October 1981 to 11 February 2011, Egypt’s longest ruling president since the 1952 Revolution ended the monarchy.

 

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