What Mubarak must do before he is replaced

Hossam Bahgat and Soha Abdelaty, the executive director and deputy director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, write:

Egypt’s constitution stipulates that if the president resigns or his office becomes permanently “vacant,” he must be replaced by the speaker of parliament or, in the absence of parliament, the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court. In the event of the president’s temporary inability to exercise his prerogatives, the vice president is to take over as the interim head of state. In both cases a new president must be elected within 60 days. Significantly, the constitution prohibits the interim president from introducing constitutional amendments, dissolving parliament or dismissing the cabinet.

If today Mubarak were no longer available to fulfill his role as president, the interim president would be one of two candidates. If he chooses to leave the country, say for “medical reasons,” the interim president would be Omar Suleiman, the former intelligence chief who was recently made vice president. Egyptians, particularly those of us calling for an end to Mubarak’s three-decade rule, see Suleiman as Mubarak II, especially after the lengthy interview he gave to state television Feb. 3 in which he accused the demonstrators in Tahrir Square of implementing foreign agendas. He did not even bother to veil his threats of retaliation against protesters.

On the other hand, if Mubarak is pushed to resign immediately we would have an even worse interim president: Fathi Surur, who has been speaker of the People’s Assembly since 1990. Surur has long employed his legal expertise to maintain and add to the arsenal of abusive laws that Mubarak’s regime has used against the Egyptian people. Since neither Suleiman nor Surur would be able to amend the constitution during the interim tenure, the next presidential election would be conducted under the notoriously restrictive election rules Mubarak introduced in 2007. That would effectively guarantee that no credible candidate would be able to run against the interim president.

So before Mubarak resigns he must sign a presidential decree delegating all of his authorities to his vice president until their current terms end in September. Mubarak issued similar decrees, transferring his powers to the prime minister, when he was hospitalized in 2004 and 2009. In addition, Mubarak must issue decrees lifting the “state of emergency” that has allowed him to suppress Egyptians’ civil liberties since 1981 and ordering the release or trial of those held in administrative detention without charge – estimated to be in the thousands.

Also before Mubarak resigns, an independent commission of respected judges, constitutional law experts, civil society representatives and all political movements should draft language to amend the constitution to ensure that presidential elections are open to all credible candidates; that Egyptians abroad are allowed – for the first time – to vote; that any elected president is allowed to serve only two terms; and that the elections are supervised by judicial and civil monitors. Most of this will be a matter of undoing the damage Mubarak inflicted with his constitutional changes in 2007.

Issandr El Amrani comments:

To be honest, while the path they highlight is clear and worth considering, I believe extra-constitutional means deserve to be considered to: suspend the current constitution and have a transition council, for instance.

Another path that would remain within the constitution is to use Article 139 to appoint more vice-presidents, each empowered to deal with various aspects of the situation: one to take the lead on constitutional reform, one to investigate the events of the past week, one to restore and reform the Ministry of Interior, etc. It would be a defacto Council of Wise Men (and hopefully at least one woman!)

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6 thoughts on “What Mubarak must do before he is replaced

  1. Vince J.

    This is in today’s Al Jaseera:
    ” Clinton warns of ‘perfect storm’ US secretary of state says rulers in Middle East must enforce political and social reforms or face backlash.”

    Is this War Crminal for real???!!!!!!!!!!!! In which World is she living in?! What about Honduras? Or the latest coup attempt in Equador? Or the US military bases in Colombia? Or the decades of military dictatorship imposed in Latin America?

    She has the arrogance to call the USbacked military coup in Honduras a “True move towards democracy”.

  2. Christopher Hoare

    I notice that the article from which the original came has no comments. I can understand how reluctant people might be to rush into a legal quagmire with an opinion that may be nonsense, but what is the “standard” for constitutions? Some societies have worked successfully for hundreds of years with no written and agreed constitution, while Mubarak’s is clearly a fraud, perpetrated on the people of Egypt. Is there even one international standard of principles upon which one might assess the validity of constitutions?

    It seems a very poorly run world that has international standards of regulatory efficiency for such things as trademarks, debt, and declarations of war, but nothing about the legal regulation of societies upon which humanity relies.

  3. Paloma

    In its history , humanity has faced sometimes vacant power, called “interregnum” which was usual a chaotic time. But now, and in the case of Egypt, the people’s power easely can assume power in a legal and democratic way. This real revolution, also in the sense of western democratic values (for which we have to fight in the way of our brave egyptian fellows ) going on in Egypt and Tunesia shows us very clearly that time is a precious thing. Three israeli airplanes yesterd

  4. Paloma

    Three israeli airplanes landed on 30th january at 4 am at the military airport in Cairo with high tech material in order to shoot down the popular uprising and especially their leaders.
    We know that in high tech repression material, Israel is a leading state. Let’s not take the counter revolution the time for it’s bloody repression. Of course Israel and the USA will do everything to protect their military supremacy in the region. People’s power is not wellcomed. Especially when the need for justice and peace will be on the people’s agenda: the opening of the inhuman and savage siege of Gaza at the Rafah crossing. Fraternity of the Gaza people and the egyptian revolutionnaries is evident and necessary. At each moment of history we had this fraternity: During WWI french and german soldiers fraternised and had to face military trial! Let’s finish with the state horror! We all have to have the moral duty to make succeed the arab revolution and take example for our’s.

  5. rosemerry

    I hope the demonstrators and their leaders and reps know the legal difficulties. I am sure many of them do, as it is essential to escape from this constitutional quagmire before the US and its fiend (sic)Israel take over.

  6. Norman

    The key to all this, is not to compromise, that is, be divided & conquered. For that’s just exactly what the powers to be are trying to do. Solidarity within, is the only way that freedom can truly come about. There will be no change if the U.S. & Israel & the elite are allowed to dictate the terms. This is the watershed of the revolution. Freedom, will never be granted if these powers are determining the direction that the Egyptian people want or should take. These same powers are what led to this point in time. The status quo can no longer be tolerated, no matter what they might want. The Egyptian people have paid the price, many times over and have yet to feel the fruits of fulfillment. Out with the 20th Century molds, in with the 21st Century developments, ones that give freedoms to the people, not to just the elites.

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