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Egyptian Political System and Copts

By-Ashraf Ramelah | 4 November 2009

Egypt has a unique political system and language. The system is made to serve the regime’s purpose inside the country as well as its relationship with the international world. Egypt became a republic after the 1952 coup, as in any republic system the president has to be elected among others who are bidding to lead the country. Citizens vote for the candidate whose promises meet their needs.

The three presidents who have ruled Egypt since the coup never had any opponent. Egypt used a referendum system in which the population had to say yes to agree or no to avoid the election of such leader. In the past half century the presidential candidate in each case obtained an average of 99.99% of population’s consent to lead the country.

Personally I believe that all the elections were fixed, for if any one of the three presidents actually did receive less than 50% of the vote just think of what would happen. In Egypt, as well as other Arab countries, history teaches us that once someone reaches this position one stays forever or tries to pass the power to a close relative. Nasser, for example, led Egypt for almost 18 years until he died in office. Sadat was killed after 11 years. After Mubarak’s nearly 28 year term, the regime is actually in preparation to install Mubarak’s son after his death. Assad of Syria did the same; in fact the actual president inherited the presidency of Syria after his father’s death!

Egypt’s legislative body is made up of two councils. As per the Egyptian constitution, elections must be held directly and secretly for members of both councils. The first is known as the People Council (Magles El Shaab) and is equivalent to western parliament. The second is called Shura Council, and its purpose is for discussion and recommendation.

The People Council is the legislative authority and has various duties as stated in Part V of the Constitution. In accordance with Article 86 of the constitution the People Council has legislative power over state policies and also the responsibility for the economic plan and general budget of the state. Additionally, it oversees the state’s social development.  Furthermore, it exercises control over the executive branch, per the constitution, such as in the nomination of the elected president as well as in the acceptance of his resignation.

The People Council is composed of 440 members elected through direct elections and secret ballot under the supervision of members of a judicial body. In addition to the 10 members appointed by the president, at least half of the members elected must be from the workers and peasants.

During the 2005 election of the People Council, the Egyptian population numbered about 70 million including over than 15 million Copts. Currently, its only elected Copt is Dr. Youssef Raouf Botrus Ghaly, the economic minister of Egypt. It is more than likely that because he was minister at the time of the election the regime made certain of his position on the Council in order to appear more democratic to the west and to impress outsiders with a sense of nondiscrimination or oppression of the Copts.

In the list of the 10 appointed members of the Council by the Egyptian president, we find five Copts. The names are:

-         Judge Edward Ghaly El Zahaby

-         Judge Iskander Gerges Kadass

-         Mrs. Ibtesam Habib Michaeal

-         Mrs. Elhamy Gerges

-         Dr. Georgette Sobhy Kellini

In the appointment of these Coptic members, the Egyptian regime appears to be a civil system without discrimination against the Copts.  Examinations of parliamentary actions taken by Coptic members, in most cases indicate their standing with Brotherhood Muslims in support of regime positions.  It is clear that any parliamentary action taken by Coptic members in general is in order to please the Regime.

There is no better example of this point than in the reaction of Coptic members to the issue of the state’s decision to slaughter the pigs. Their vote in favor of it was a vote in favor of economic damages to Coptic family businesses in the industry of raising and selling pigs. The economic welfare of more than two million people was ignored and denied by the Coptic members of the People Council which calls into question the morality of such a vote.

Additionally, as a by-product of this decision, a second industry, that of garbage collecting from the city streets, was effectively shut down. Those who generated income from collecting food scraps from garbage cans along the street to sell to pig farmers no longer have a market for their product. Many Egyptian cities are now piled high in garbage as a result of this crass and heavy-handed approach to solving a problem.

Dottore  Architetto Ashraf Ramelah
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