Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Tareq al-Bishri

Blogger Nisralnasr has an excellent profile of Tareq al-Bishri, the former judge who has been appointed to head the committee drafting constitutional changes for the new Egypt. I interviewed Bishri for about an hour and a half back in 2004 but unfortunately I've lost the notes. From memory, what came across very strongly (and Nisralnasr makes similar points) was the emphasis he placed on the separation of powers, on the need to dilute the powers of the overbearing presidency, and on community and civil society as alternatives and counterweights to the centralised state. The choice is a very positive one and rather a surprise coming from what many people assumed was a rather staid and unimaginative military council. The inclusion of an active Muslim Brotherhood member on the committee also suggests it is not quite as hostile to a political role for the Brotherhood as the US diplomatic cable written by US ambassador Frank Ricciardone in 2008 suggested:
In the cabinet, where he still wields significant influence, Tantawi (defence minister and now head of the ruling military council) has opposed both economic and political reforms that he perceives as eroding central government power. He is supremely concerned with national unity, and has opposed policy initiatives he views as encouraging political or religious cleavages within Egyptian society. In a speech on March 9, Tantawi said one of the military’s roles is to protect constitutional legitimacy and internal stability, signaling his willingness to use the military to control the Muslim Brotherhood in the run-up to the April 9 municipal council elections.
    (A strange aspect of the memo is that the Mubarak regime, as far as I know, never used the military to control the Muslim Brotherhood during election campaigns or at any other time. That was purely a matter for the police and State Security.)
    Is it possible that other voices on the military council had a say in the choice of Bishri and Sobhi Saleh of the Brotherhood?

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