I’ve been closely following the events in Egypt, cheering for the thousands, if not millions, who are standing together united in their desire for liberty and democracy. I fully support them. But the people here and in Egypt who are calling for Mubarak’s immediate resignation aren’t taking into account the undesirable consequences dictated by the Egyptian constitution that would necessarily follow if Mubarak steps down at once.
Hossam Bahgat, an Egyptian who has worked with Human Rights Watch, has explained that no interim president will have Mubarak’s power to dismiss the cabinet, dissolve parliament or introduce constitutional amendments. Since the election of a new president must take place within 60 days after Mubarak steps down, the election would have to be conducted under the the same “notoriously restrictive” laws now in effect. Bahgat maintains that those rules “would effectively guarantee that no credible candidate would be able to run against the interim president.”
Moreover, if Mubarak resigns, the constitution stipulates that the speaker of parliament has to accede to the presidency. If, on the other hand, Mubarak retains his title and takes a leave of absence, then Omar Suleiman, the recently appointed vice president, would take the reins. Speaker Fathi Surur is even worse than Suleiman, claims Bahgat. Surur has aided and abetted Mubarak in writing and enacting the repressive laws hated and feared by the Egyptian public.
Suleiman has been meeting with leaders of the opposition, and he and Mubarak have made some concessions to meet with the protesters’ demands. Al Jazeera reports that after yesterday’s talks the government has agreed to establish a committee that will examine proposed amendments to the constitution, investigate government officials accused of corruption and allow the media to publish with greater freedom. Before leaving, Mubarak would have to fulfill his pledge to rescind the oppressive emergency law that curtails civil rights and has been in effect for 30 years. He must also sign over all his powers to the interim president.
Bahgat believes that before Mubarak resigns he must also appoint both a caretaker government to oversee the interim president and an independent commission to draft the constitutional amendments that will make a transition to full democracy possible.
It remains to be seen whether Mubarak will accede to the demands made of him and above all, if the people will ease their demands for his immediate resignation and departure from Egypt.
Photo by Mona