Communique No. 5 Suspends Constitution, Prorogues Parliament

The Egyptian military high command council issued Communique no. 5 Sunday, answering some of the lingering questions being posed by protesters on Sunday.

McClatchy has the translation.

The communique makes it clear that Minister of Defense Mohammad Hussein Tantawi is the provisional head of state. Despite his closeness to the Mubarak regime before the revolution, Tantawi is probably more trusted and respected than the new vice president, Omar Suleiman, former head of military intelligence. Tantawi served in the 1956, 1967 and 1973 wars with Israel and so has nationalist credentials. The unpopular Suleiman has thus receded into the shadows, though his presence reassures Washington and Tel Aviv.

The generals have suspended the 1971 constitution, which they say they will amend before holding free presidential and parliamentary elections sometime in the next six months. They also dissolved parliament. There will be a popular referendum on the amendments. In short, the officer corps is acting as the instrument of Egyptian popular sovereignty, representing the people and consulting them without having been chosen by them, until that people’s choice can be made.

These moves remove some of the advantages, to which I referred at Columbia University last Thursday, enjoyed by the ruling National Democratic Party. Moreover, membership in that party isn’t any longer an attractive item on one’s resume, and some 5,000 leading members have now resigned from it.

The communique was welcomed by some of the protesters, though they are still demanding an abrogation of the State of Emergency and release of political prisoners. But in a situation where the constitution is suspended and there is a military government, there is ipso facto a state of emergency.

One tweet said that labor union meetings and strikes were being forbidden, which if true is a troubling development (the Arabic Aljazeera report linked above just said that there were rumors this prohibition would be announced, not that it had been). Some protesters are worried about a reversion to the status quo, and hope to keep pressure on the military through weekly demonstrations on Fridays.

For the moment, Egypt is a strange kind of military dictatorship, with various safety valves for popular input and a set of promises for the future. But then, it has been that for some time– it is just that the promises may now be more credible and a transition to something else may be possible.

9 Responses

  1. I do hope it is different in Egypt.

    Pakistan has perfected the art of bloodless change of government since Ayub Khan took over in the late 50s. The change happens always to blunt popular uprising in the face of economic distress, but always to preserve the corrupt status quo.

  2. Dear Dr.Cole,

    You don’t need to post this, but what is your opinion?

    I would like to know what is supposed to happen to the hundreds of thousands of people who make their living from the internal security business with all their weapons, money, secret prisons and torture rooms, money, ties to Langley, money, etc. did I mention money? and what about the million or more police? Most of the police can be put back on the beat maybe… that’s not hard to imagine, but I don’t picture many of the state security people going back to the farm and walking behind a donkey and a plow. They have to be given some role with serious perks or they will just become a mafia as in what happened in the former USSR.
    Some stayed in the KGB (renamed), some created the mafias, some got the banks, exchanges, petroleum, shipping etc. and all of them kept their connections alive. I doubt the Egyptian security is as well organized, energetic or cohesive as was that in the USSR, so they may not pull it off as well, but it’s not like that much power, money and privilege is going to roll over without a fight. I think it’s way too soon for celebration. I don’t believe the elites in Egypt are sitting at home tonight crying into their beer. They are up late drinking coffee and on the phone figuring out how to game it from here and what are the resources they want to control and where the opportunities are. Meanwhile the working stiffs are having themselves a party. It’s not like we haven’t seen this before.

    Yours,

    Otto.

  3. I think that generals like promotions, discipline, respect, and no talking back. Hard to perceive these guys sitting across the table from young revolutionaries and bouncing around ideas about the political and economic transformation of the country. And the only bargaining chip the revolutionaries have is to call out the crowds – an action the generals could squash like a bug, then simply ignore the tut tuts from the somberly outraged heads of state.

    If the generals are sincere maybe the UN could provide negotiating assistance, and fill in the holes in the skill sets of both sides.

    • Well, on the other side, for a people it is difficult to make a revolution (a profound change of regime) without having the army on its side. The crucial question is who among the army takes the power : is it the soldiers and middle rank officers siding with the people ? or is it the top chain of command ? From what I understand in Egypt it is rather the top chain of command who took power (aka more of a military coup pitting some army corps against the others (Aviation and intelligence against the others) fighting for the succession of Mubarak Mubarak tried to push for Soleiman, but instead, Annan and Tawiri won, with the US trying to pull ropes in the background. See what Pepe Escobar is writing for Asia Times Online : link to atimes.com

      On the other side, the popular movement/uprising is very strong and tenacious, but very inorganized.

      Bush would probably have pushed for a brutal Soleiman solution, but Barack Obamma seems to try a more “democratic” way (it seems that Annan and Tawiri have had direct talks with Washington).

      The first announces of the army look good : dissolution of the fraudulently elected parliament and abrogation of the constitution, but still there are many questions open : for instance who will elaborate the new constitution to be submitted to the people by referendum ?

      I hope that things will turn out like the carnation revolution in 1974 in Portugal, but there are three main differences between the Portugese situation and what is occurring in Egypt :
      a) The military in charge are top rank generals, not middle ranks officers fraternizing with the people.
      b)The interim authority is not a revolutionary comitee composed of both middle rank officers and leaders of the popular movement.
      c) Egypt is a client state of the US receiving billions from the US both for the army and for the economy. This will seriously hamper the freedom of action of any new goverment.

      I hold my thumbs for the Egyptian people, but I fear that the changes granted will not but up to the high hopes awakened by this movement. We will have to wait a year or so in order to know for sure whether what we saw was only a military coup using a popular uprising to its own benefits, or whether it was really the beginning of a revolution.

    • It’s always good to see the preponderance of perceptive comments on this site. As regards the generals – I wonder if it is all discipline, respect and no talking back when they are dealing with their respective clans. The more macho a man in a position of power makes himself out to be – the more suspect it is as regards who is really pulling the strings.

  4. Concern (not the crazy Glenn Beck concern that the communist/Islamist grand conspiracy will declare an Islamic State and refight the battle of Roncevaux): the army, which doesn’t appear from news reports to actually be as capable of progressive action as optimist chants assume, uses the time of the transition to fortify those elements of the old order that they feel are most essential, and to create divisions among the opposition. Those elements of the opposition who can be included in a new order – mostly the privileged intellectual leaders, and possibly those organized as political parties – will be. The needs and demands of those who don’t have the economic status of a Google executive (no offense to that guy) will continue to be marginalized – and those who continue to complain can be labeled as ingrates or “radicals” and ignored. A new, freer, more democratic order will emerge – to the extent that it doesn’t threaten elite economic interests, and the repressive apparatus, unchanged, will be reserved for laborers, as in other democracies. My guess is that the army still has secret provocateurs within some oppositional factions to provoke more disunity – like all self-respecting, US-trained totalitarian institutions.

    But hopefully I am as crazy as a Beck here.

  5. Pardon my skepticism, but I do not believe that people willingly act against their own self-interest. If it is true, as has frequently been alleged, that the Egyptian military is just as corrupt as the leaders of the Mubarak regime, it would have no interest in having a truly civilian government that is likely to pry into the military’s financial affairs — with the possible result of imprisonment for members of the top brass. Instead the military brass is likely to want one of their own (Omar Suleiman?) who would turn a blind eye to their corruption — whether that person is installed by the military or “elected” in one of Egypt’s famous 98% landslides. I fear the civilians have already missed the opportunity to take the transition into their own hands and the military has been left to act freely.

  6. The now-suspended constitution of Egypt contains a number of articles which, taken together, are a sort of “Egyptian Bill of Rights”. Examples are Articles 8, 17, 40, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 54, 56, 66, 67, 71. The fact that these articles were systematically trampled upon during the Mubarak years does not mean that these are irrelevant now. If there is nothing to violate then violators can never be held accountable! Why did the military junta not announce that these articles remain “active”? And am I not correct that laws are supposed to be derived from or at least consistent with a constitution? If I am correct then Egypt is not only without a constitution but without laws. I return to my warning: if there is nothing that can be violated then violators can never be held accountable. It is my sincerely held opinion that the suspension of all articles of the Egyptian constitution is either a gigantic blunder by the military or else is a cleverly constructed safeguard against accusations of illegal suppression of popular unrest.

  7. And am I not correct that laws are supposed to be derived from or at least consistent with a constitution? If I am correct then Egypt is not only without a constitution but without laws.

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