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Is Egypt’s New Protest Law Good for Democracy?

Hossam El Hamalawy

Ashraf Ramelah - published on 12/12/13 - updated on 06/07/17

The Muslim Brotherhood’s claim of holding nonviolent, peaceful protests is belied by their complaints of the new protest regulation which now injects law and order. Pro-democracy supporters of the new law consider it a weak attempt by an interim government that should have taken bolder steps earlier to shut down the dangerous Brotherhood gangs. Gangs run rampant unchecked by law and for some time the freedom coalition movement has considered the government’s delay suspicious.  

The interim government formed within weeks of Morsi’s arrest allowed to remain Morsi’s removal of the country’s 32 year-old emergency law needed so desperately to restrain the Muslim Brotherhood backlash. Egyptians, worried about their safety, blame the interim government and the military and police forces unable to keep up with the outbreaks of violence.

It was not unreasonable to expect the newly instated temporary leadership of the interim government to target Brotherhood thugs and round up the criminals released from jails by former President Morsi. Yet this did not happen. Freedom fighters would have been heartened to see the outlawing of religion-affiliated political parties en route to establishing a modern secular state.

The banning of the Muslim Brotherhood organization — reverting to past policy — coming as late as three months after Morsi’s removal turned out to be a hollow gesture coming from a government body comprised of religionists. Sympathy alive in the interim government for the El Noor party (Salafists holding the strictest fundamental Islamic religious views) is also evident in the makeup of the select constituent assembly chosen by this government to draft the new constitution.  (At the same time, this assembly’s lack of experts in constitutional law weakened its purpose.)

In the five months since Morsi’s arrest in the name of liberty and the pursuit of a secular state, there has been no real effort to rid Egypt of the effects of Morsi’s rule and the Brotherhood’s hyper-religious focus to further Islamic supremacy. The reason for this is that following General Al Sisi alignment of the military with freedom fighters and arrest of Morsi in early July in accordance with majority sentiment, he appointed Egypt’s High Constitutional Court president, Adly Monsour, to lead the country. Al Sisi took his direction from Egypt’s former Sadat-Mubarak constitution ignoring Morsi’s constitution as a debacle.

Monsour then appointed Dr. El Baradei, a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer, as his vice-president. The two proceeded to appoint the president of the new interim government, Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi — another Islamist sympathizer. The Prime Minister chose his cabinet – the majority with roots in the Islamic cause. They are insiders doing the bidding inside the government for the Muslim Brotherhood and are receptive to foreign interference pursuing the return of the Muslim Brotherhood to power.  

The one question no one seems to be asking is what will happen if a protest permit is denied. Will the courts function to provide timely recourse upon appeals of the denials and fairness regarding the right to assemble and protest or will the courts be tied to the Islamist viewpoint held by the interim government and the President of Egypt? Monsour is also currently the president of the High Constitutional Court. The risk is that no permits will be issued for political protests in the future.  

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