Anti-government protests that were relatively small were talked up as bringing out hundreds of thousands of people into Tahrir Square.
November 29, 2012, 00:30 DST
Ahmed Darrag, Secretary General of the Committee in the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution, said it would be completed by today (November 29) and put to a vote. Speaking a day earlier, Darrag said "The discussions over the draft of the constitution will be finished today, to be followed by voting [within the Constituent Assembly]."
Amid rumors that the courts were going to strike down the Constituent Assembly and prevent the completion of a new constitution as it had done to the previous assembly earlier this year, President Mohamed Mursi on November 22 granted himself vast new powers to prevent the courts from doing so. Also, earlier this year, the military council working in tandem with the Mubarak-era appointed judges dissolved the People’s Assembly that had been elected in the first free and fair elections in Egypt’s history.
Remnants of the old regime and secularists that had been rejected at the polls started agitating accusing Mursi of assuming “dictatorial powers.” Some even accused him of becoming the “new Pharaoh”. These were the same people and the same judges that had dutifully served the dictator Hosni Mubarak for more than 30 years, never once uttering a word about his dictatorial powers.
In response to the protests mounted by some groups as well as the judges, most of whom are known to be exceedingly corrupt, Hossam el-Gheriyani, Speaker of Constituent Assembly said, "If you are upset by the decree, nothing will stop it except a new constitution issued immediately."
Gheriyani said Thursday (November 29) would be a "great day", calling on the opposition members who had boycotted the committee drafting the constitution, to return. Three other members of the constituent panel also said there were plans to put the final draft to a vote on Thursday.
"We will finish today and there is agreement on almost all articles ... and then we will start voting," said Younes Makhyoun, a committee member.
However, Amr Moussa, the opposition figure who was knocked out of the presidential race in the first round when he got only 3% of the vote, bristled at the announcement that the assembly would vote on it today. He said: "This is nonsensical and one of the steps that shouldn't be taken, given the background of anger and resentment to the current constitutional assembly."
Mursi assumed new powers to prevent the Mubarak-era judges from derailing drafting of the constitution. He pledged that these were temporary measures to ensure the constitution was completed and put to a vote for people’s approval. The old guards know that once the constitution is in place, they will lose all their ill-begotten privileges.
It is also interesting to note how the western media has played up the protests against Mursi’s assumption of new powers. Anti-government protests that were relatively small were talked up as bringing out hundreds of thousands of people into Tahrir Square. The Guardian of London claimed on November 28 that “100,000 people” had packed Tahrir Square when the picture with the story did not show even a few hundred people. The number of tents was also relatively small. How did the Guardian come up with the 100,000 figure is a mystery.
The Washington Post (November 28) outdid even the Guardian by claiming there were “200,000 people”. The BBC also repeated the 100,000 figure but rather cleverly used a picture from last year’s protests against Mubarak. Unless one paid close attention, it would have been difficult to tell whether it was last year’s picture or one from a day earlier.
Why is the western media exaggerating the number of protesters when most outlets would err on the side of caution and under-report the actual numbers? It is common experience that whenever Muslims protest against some policy of the west, the media either ignores such protests or downplays the attendance. In Egypt’s case, the numbers are being grossly inflated and exaggerated. One wonders why.
The Washington Post story by Abigail Hauslohner provided a clue. She quoted Ahmed Taha, a retired Egyptian army general, who said: “I’m here to defend Egypt, an Egypt that has been kidnapped by an illegal group.” This is an interesting claim coming from a retired general who obviously had served Mubarak for years. The ousted dictator always claimed to have won by 99% of the vote! When the people’s tide erupted last year, the 99% support had evaporated.
Mursi won the presidential election fair and square even though the judges tried to delay the announcement to try and find a way of denying him victory. Islamic parties captured nearly 75% of the People’s Assembly seats; the generals’ party lost badly so they struck from behind by dissolving the assembly by using the same corrupt judges that had done Mubarak’s bidding for decades.
It is clear why these people are afraid of the constitution. If they truly have the people’s support, they should lobby and ask the people not to approve it when it is put to a referendum. But they know that they do not have any support among the masses so they are playing dirty. That is the only game they know.