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Egypt: The rule of law or the mob? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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If it is true that one of the prime objectives of the January 25 revolution in Egypt is establishing a state based on the law – with rule based on principles and the law – then it is necessary for the country as a whole to respect the decisions taken by the Higher Election Committee, even if this seems odd or biased towards one party or against another.

Therefore, the screams of protest made by supporters of Salafist presidential candidate Hazem Abu-Ismail are strange and indicate a political naiveté that would prevent him from reaching high office in any case, particularly as his supporters are raising slogans such as “this is the time for Jihad” and “revolution until victory or death” and others. In this manner, Abu-Islamil’s supporters are attempting to portray his exclusion from the presidential race – owing to the fact that his late mother held an American passport – as a conspiracy, despite the fact that this involves a blatant violation against a well-known electoral law. Nevertheless, the screams, objection and threats continue unabated, and this is a situation that exposes the “fragility” of Hazem Abu-Ismail and his party’s political program.

This also applies somewhat to Khairat al-Shater, the preferred candidate of the Freedom and Justice party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was fully aware of the reservations that existed about his criminal record (as is the case with Ayman Nour and Murtada Mansour, who were also excluded) but nevertheless persisted in telling his supporters that what happened is a conspiracy and that the country is still being run in the same manner as it was during the era of former president Hosni Mubarak. However, it was not long until he changed his discourse and tone, advising his supporters to back the party’s new candidate Mohammed Mursi, announcing his acceptance of the Electoral Committee’s decision.

The most prominent criticism Hazem Abu-Ismail and his group have faced are due to their persistence in rising against the ruler – in this case, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forced (SCAF) – opposing its decisions, branding it as treasonous, and claiming that it is responsible for conspiring against the Salafist presidential candidate in particular. These were all accusations made by Hazem Abu-Ismail and his supporters, even though prominent candidates from other political currents and backgrounds were also excluded in a somewhat “fair” and equal manner.

The pretexts provided by the Higher Electoral Committee in Egypt were utterly reasonable, and the reasons were set out in a detailed and legal manner, therefore the positions that have remained sceptical of the committee’s decisions have all been somewhat feeble and weak. However, the final list of presidential candidates is yet to be decided, for attempts are still being made to exclude candidates with ties to the former regime.

Of course, there are hints regarding the possibility of excluding Ahmed Shafiq, the last of Hosni Mubarak’s prime ministers, as well as Amr Moussa, who served as Egyptian Foreign Minister in the Mubarak government. The [political] exclusion system has already been endorsed by the parliament and was submitted to SCAF president Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi for approval, which is yet to happen. In fact, the exclusion system is a significant issue – whether it is approved or not – for it will serve as a reliable indicator of the direction that Egyptian politics will take in the forthcoming period.

Any trend towards maximizing the role of independent judicial institutes in Egypt is something that merits encouragement, appreciation and interest. This is simply because such institutes oppose idolizing rulers or lending them an aura of sanctity in an exaggerated or unacceptable manner. The electoral committee and its decisions were part of the referendum which the Islamic current has strongly approved and encouraged following the eruption of the recent Egyptian revolution. Today, this same current is directly confronting the referendum’s results, and so it would be more natural if it comprehensively accepted these results, regardless of whether or not the decisions are commensurate with its interests and political ambitions.

Now Egypt is heading into the last stage regarding its political choices – namely the presidential elections – and it is delicately and patiently awaiting the country’s new constitution that will manifest the nature of political life, as well as the nature of the authority that will be enjoyed by Egypt’s parliament, prime minister and president, thereby completing Egypt’s political scene. However, the most important thing is to ensure that the rule of law is given precedence. The rule of law in Egypt must have a position which befits a country that enjoys the oldest parliamentary, media, and political role in the region. This is because sacrificing the respect and independence of the law would certainly result in the collapse of the state, which is more important that the president and the party, against whom this revolution was staged. The rule of law is the pillar of the political future in Egypt, as it is in any other state.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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