Egypt's Constitutional Crisis, a Story About the 51 Percent

Referendum on draft constitution requiring a simple majority still scheduled for Saturday


voting with your feet

Protests in Cairo against President Mohammed Morsi's late November power grab have continued for the last two weeks but they haven't shaken the government's resolve to hold a snap referendum this Saturday on the draft constitution finished last month. The document needs just a simple majority to pass. As the AP noted in the lede of a story on the protests earlier this week, "Morsi is unlikely to worry if Egypt's Islamist-leaning draft constitution passes by only a small margin in a Dec. 15 referendum, since he and his backers tout his 51 percent election victory in June as a 'popular mandate' that is beyond any challenge."

Opposition leaders aren't sure whether to call for a no vote on the draft constitution or to boycott it. "We will either boycott or vote no," Mohammed ElBaradei, a prominent opposition leader, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour. ElBarade called the referendum illegitimate. Voting no would legitimize it, while boycotting lends the appearance of a wide margin, a trap opposition movements often fall into in autocratic countries.

Egypt's defense ministry is already reaching out to journalists and politicians to "resolve" the crisis while Morsi's government blames the widespread unrest on a 1 percent of sorts. From CNN:

"You have the majority of the poor people, the simple, definitely for the president and for the constitution," Muhammad Rifaa al-Tahtawi, Morsy's chief of staff, told CNN on Sunday.

"You have a majority among the elite who are not for this constitution. Businessmen, media people. They are definitely a small minority, but powerful minority."

Al-Tahtawi's comments followed calls by the opposition for new, nationwide protests while accusing Morsy of risking a "violent confrontation" by moving forward with the scheduled vote Saturday.

But al-Tahtawi dismissed the threat, saying the issue would be decided by the people.

"If we do not manage to come to terms, let us go to the people," he said.

The people instead are going to the president, storming the palace in Cairo again today.

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  1. btackers!

    he and his btackers tout his 51 percent election victory in June as a ‘popular mandate’ that is beyond any challenge.”

    1. btacker is the new frenemy.

  2. It doesn’t matter if you are popular. It matters if you have weapons and are ruthless enough to use them. The Bolsheviks were never popular. They were a joke. Kerensky never considered them a threat until it was too late. The Nazis never won a majority of the German vote. The first revolutionary President of Iran was a moderate. It wasn’t until several years later that the radical Islamists took over. Each and every time, a small committed and ruthless band of radicals takes over because they are willing to kill people and their liberal opponents are not. If Karensky, Hindenburg, or Banisadr had understood what they were up against and just fucking shot a few of the right people, a whole lot of lives would have been saved. How many times does this have to play out before western liberals get their heads out of their ass and realize it?

    1. History is why I don’t welcome a total collapse in the U.S. Because the next thing will most assuredly not be libertopia.

      1. It is because liberals of every stripe including Libertarians always want to believe that everyone else is just like them. No. not everyone is peaceful and interested in the Democratic process. Some people are just assholes who want to kill you and enslave you. And the only way to deal with such people is to kill them first.

        1. It is because liberals of every stripe including Libertarians always want to believe that everyone else is just like them

          What? When did Libertarians believe everyone was like them (us)? There are what, 22 of us in the country, and about half of us don’t vote? Yeah, everyone’s like me…

          1. Paul,

            I have never met a libertarian who wasn’t a peaceful, reasonable, hard working person. They have a bad habit of assuming everyone else is like that.

            1. You forget ruggedly handsome, but otherwise I agree.

              1. When it comes to rugged good looks, Ron Swanson and Ayn Rand have pretty much everybody beat.

          2. When did that happen? Well, exaggerating of course because it’s just a trendency (Like that word?), but, as noted by someone else a couple years ago or so, things took that turn by about 1990. Well into the middle 1980s, libertarian activists had seen themselves as embattled, but after that they tended to view themselves as a popular vanguard. Attitudes switched from “libertarian” and “populist” being seen as polar opposites (which was never really true) to one of radical libertarianism being seen as a populist movement (which is also not true).

            There is of course justif’n for the latter view. In parts of the world that are about as far as practicable from free, where an obvious ruling class oppresses a far larger ruled class very badly, of course populist movements are libertarian, because they can’t help but being so, even if they substitute one tyranny for another, because by assumption they were already as unfree as possible, and the class of those ruled over would at least shrink as more moved into the ruling class. Meanwhile in democracies, public choice theory shows that there are frequently outcomes where you get less freedom than the support for it if everyone is polled on the issue in question. So some viewers blow those facts up into an idea that people are more radically libertarian on avg. than is actually the case.

            1. Just to expand on what I meant by liberty advancing as people moved from ruled to ruler, imagine a society of 3 people where 1 is whipping the other 2. Eventually the 2 realize they can rush the guy with the whips, and do so. If you then wind up with the 2 of them whipping the other 1, as will likely be the case, that’s still an advance for freedom because you have only half as many people being whipped as before.

    2. Islamists have the energy and the motivation in the Middle East, and either pluralities or outright majorities in the Muslim-majority countries in north Africa and the Near East. The zeitgeist is with them. Obama is an asshole, but he’s right about one thing: the future, at least with regard to the Middle East, does not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam — and conveniently enough, it is Islamists and their fellow travelers who, more and more, get to define what counts as slandering the prophet.

      1. Yep, we’re living during some kind of Islamist Great Awakening… and it ain’t no Methodist camp meeting unfortunately.

  3. Who knew Islamists could strenghthen their hold on power via Twitter?

  4. The people instead are going to the president, storming the palace in Cairo again today.

    “Have fun storming the castle!”

    1. “You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.”

    1. If you are an Egyptian you should be concerned. But ultimately, if they want to turn their country into an Islamist hell hole, I wish them luck. Let those who want to leave into decent countries and let them live in their own shit for a while. And if they get stupid and attack any of their neighbors, bomb them into the stone age.

      1. Remember when the term “American Taliban” was being thrown around a lot? Not that I find the religious right to be at all pleasant, but that particularly unpleasant period when the religious right seemed to be on the march…2001-2006…What, that was like 5 years? The Mid-East Crisis has been going on for MILLENNIA!

        1. Thrown around by morons who have no fucking clue what an actual radical looks like.


            Apparently, Aaron Sorkin still uses it.

            1. I got into a brief conversation with someone a few months ago who refused to acknowledge that there was any political slant to The Newsroom at all. Apparently it was all “reality-based”.

      2. Except, it’s not gonna stay in Egypt. More and more muslims are coming to the US and they want to implement Sharia here.

        1. They can’t implement Sharia here. The Constitution doesn’t allow for it.

          European laws are a different matter though.

          1. Constitutions provide for their own amendment.

      3. I’m actually fine with Egypt becoming an Islamist hell-hole. I hope it doesn’t happen because it will be something awful, but the world needs to understand that we’re all living in a time of a Great Islamist Awakening. They’re really religious and there is nothing we can do about it, but to remain vigilant and kill the worse of them when required to.

  5. …since he and his backers tout his 51 percent election victory in June as a ‘popular mandate’ that is beyond any challenge.

    Didn’t someone else win an election this year with 51% of the vote, and claim pretty much the same thing? I can’t quite remember who it was, though…

  6. From the Egyptian draft constitution

    Article 44
    Insult or abuse of all religious messengers and prophets shall be prohibited.

    Article 45
    Freedom of thought and opinion shall be guaranteed.

    Every individual has the right to express an opinion and to disseminate it verbally, in writing or illustration, or by any other means of publication and expression.

    People just don’t get it do they.

    1. We can’t have people shouting “Allahballs!” in a crowded theater.

    2. I understand that the we’re not talking about rules that will actually be followed consistently, but would a plain reading of Article 44 permit the printing of a book that said of Jews, “you shall always discover treachery in them excepting a few of them”?

      1. Plain reading of a constitution? Are you mad.

        Actually no, you’re insulting Jews not their prophet. You could say something like. “It would be more along the lines of you’ll find treachery in the Jew as they don’t follow the revered prophet Moses.” I’m guessing as to how Egyptians would read and their judges rule on this.

        1. You could say something like. “You’ll find treachery in the Jew as they don’t follow the revered prophet Moses.” I’m guessing as to how Egyptians would read and their judges rule on this.

    3. What is a “religious messenger” anyway? Does that include all the clergy/priests/rabbis/imams?

    4. 44 & 45 are easy to reconcile. Insult and abuse are allegations of fact, not opinion.

  7. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Liberty!

    Hopefully the Pyramids will still be intact when all is said and done.

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