Egypt's turmoil: A bold court ruling derails the move to democracy
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Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court rocked the country Thursday by ruling that the 2011-12 parliamentary elections were unconstitutional and that former President Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, is eligible to run for president.
The former action damages the prospects of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which had won the largest number of seats in the legislative elections, in the presidential election today and Sunday. Its candidate in the run-off, opposing Mr. Shafiq, a former general, is Mohammed Morsi. He could still win, but if so he will have to govern the country of 81 million without a parliament until new elections are held.
The court judges were all appointed by Mr. Mubarak. In terms of political audacity, their ruling made George W. Bush's judicial sleight-of-hand victory in 2000 look like a Sunday School raffle. The big winners are the Egyptian military, who clearly intend not to lose their grip on power regardless of the demand for democratization in the Arab Spring.
The military, led by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, seized power, ostensibly to avoid chaos, in the wake of the popular, Tahrir Square-based overthrow of Mr. Mubarak last year. The military then postponed the writing of a new constitution, which was supposed to precede elections. Nevertheless, legislative elections and the first round of the presidential contest took place. Now the court has dissolved the new parliament and military leaders are left in power, as they have been since 1952, with no constitution or parliament.
Although the United States professes to support democratization, it nonetheless continues to provide $1.3 billion in annual aid to the Egyptian armed forces. At one point in March there was consideration in Washington of withholding the aid until an elected civilian government was in place in Cairo. That idea was scrapped when the military government said it would be unable to pay U.S. arms manufacturers Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics unless the aid continued to flow.
Now Egyptians and the United States face the real prospect of the whole drive toward democracy being scrapped. That would be shameful as well as dangerous.
First Published June 16, 2012 12:00 am