Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dr. Amr Hamzawi's Lecture [ندوة د. عمرو حمزاوي] - Bibilioetheca Alexandrina

Some of the attendees of the lecture while leaving after the lecture

Today was my first ever politically-oriented lecture with Dr. Amr Hamzawi (at the Bibilioetheca Alexandrina) who spoke about and discussed his views and visions over many, very Egyptian, issues in the course of his lecture.

We started with a minute's stand over the souls of the fallen warriors of the Revolution (if you are reading this now, please take a moment to pray for them). We then moved on to an introduction on Dr. Hamzawi who is a research director at Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut and a leading figure in Middle Eastern political analysis.

In this post, I attempt to summarize his very interesting two-hour lecture where he spoke for many points including:
1) The vision of Egypt after the Revolution and what changes the Revolution had made until now.
2) How long will Egypt take to pass the period after which it will move to being a powerful democracy.
3) His opinion of the Constitutional changes (subject to a public referendum this Saturday).
4) The expected scenarios if 'Yes' and 'No' are the majority votes in the referendum.
5) The role of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic organizations in Egyptian politics and political life.

Among many other interesting points that I took over two pages worth of notes about. What follows is a summary in bullet points! Please note that, while I organized them in chronological order, the bullet points may be exact but unorganized and not arranged in a particular subject.
  • The 25th of January Revolution had managed to topple the system but, contrary to certain beliefs, the Revolution had not managed to completely topple the system. There still remains organizations, unfair laws and an unfair Constitution remaining to go.
  • Changes in the constitution are "an attempt to trick the Revolution". The Constitution cannot stay in a state where unfair laws, emergency laws still remain. Dr. Amr also suggested that a new Constitution should be formulated that understands and expresses the Revolution.
  • Dr. Amr sarcastically asked where the four million members of the (toppled) National Democratic Party were at the moment!
  • The Egyptian state should be unbiased and secular (I'm not sure that is the word but he did mean that religion should not be one of the preferences in front of the state) where the law gets the highest word. The only way to bring life back to the organizations of the state is through reviving the word of the law and giving it the highest regard again. Dr. Amr said something that I think speaks a lot of truth, "In Egypt we have a problem that the laws are written beautifully but rarely applied".
  • Dr. Amr then spoke of some very interesting statistics and studies.
    1) Between the 70's elections and the last (parlimentary) ones in 2010, there is scarcely 20% of the eligible Egyptian votes who took part in the elections. He expressed the extreme need for every eligible Egyptian voter to vote in the upcoming referendum.
    2) There is a third of the Egyptian population that is uneducated.
    3) There is a 40% slice of the Egyptian population that earns between $1 and $2 a day.
    4) The regular Egyptian citizen spends approximately two thirds of his yearly income into his medications and general healthcare.
  • Dr. Amr spoke of the way the deformed system had managed to deform the political scene in Egypt, including the parties of the opposition. The opposition parties, he continued, were reduced to parties that fought and asked over, "How many seats can we get in the parliment?". He mentioned that, far from having effective roles, they simply wanted to have a chance to have a role.
  • Dr. Amr spoke of the challenges we have facing us towards democracy. Those include:
    1) The fact that there are many societies that, like us, wanted their way into democracy and failed and how we should learn from their experiment to avoid them.
    2) The fact that it is not a matter of 'months' and then a 'jump' into democracy.
    3) The fact that it is unaccepted for anyone to deny anyone the right to peaceful protest and expression of their opinion, provided they are not harming anyone or preventing them from their rights.
    4) The fact that we have to get rid of the fact that we 'await orders' from the top of the executive pyramid. The Egyptian people, he said, are their own masters now. They make their decisions and opinions and they are not dictated what they think or waiting for 'higher orders' to make decisions for them.
    5) The fact that nobody, including any opposition party, has the right to tell you what the 'public good' is. No one, simply, has that authority.
    6) The fact that you cannot divide democracy. You cannot keep your right to an opinion while calling for a denial of someone else's. You either allow everyone their right to an opinion, in which case you achieve democracy, or you do not.
    7) The fact that we have an oncoming challenge of keeping up a balanced society (that fights against its own divisions and differences) in the absence of a Revolution.
  • Dr. Amr then expressed several concerns over the Constitutional changes, although he did mention that he cannot speak his full argument because the other side is not with him on the stage to reply and it would be unfair to the audience listening:
    1) Dr. Amr believes that it is an 'oncoming disaster' if we have the current regulations of parliamentary elections based on single membership system [النظام الفرديs] in the upcoming parliamentary elections (parliamentary elections are an expected consequence of the acceptance of the Constitutional changes).
    2) The span of time given for people to think over the Constitutional changes is extremely small.
    3) How can we have fair and transparent parliamentary elections within a very ill political society that has been systematically deformed over 30 years.
  • Dr. Amr expressed that he is not with the notion of a 'presidential council' and believes that the best way to go is election of a single president of the country. He also believes that the matter of whether Egypt should be a presidential or parliamentary state is 'a major issue to whoever will be responsible for writing the next Constitution'.
  • Dr. Amr then expressed his own expected scenarios of what will happen if the majority votes go to 'Yes' and if they go to 'No'. So let's start with if we go for 'Yes':
    1) The Supreme Council of Armed Forces, the current leading executive force of the country, will lead a Constitutional Announcement [اعلان دستوري] that includes the publicly approved Constitutional changes.
    2) Parliamentary elections to be held no later than September.
    3) A reminder in the Announcement of Article 189 in the suggested amendment and its insistence on a new constitution.
    4) There will be no disastrous consequences.

    And then the 'No' scenario:
    1) The suggested ammendments are considered canceled.
    2) Supreme Council issues a Constitution Annoucnement that includes the texts of the suggested changes.
    3) Parliamentary elections followed by presidential elections.
    1) Constitutional Annoucnement that is followed with presidential elections.
    2) The Annoucnement includes the formation of a committee to construct the new Constitution [هيئة تأسيســية].
    -In this scenario, Dr. Amr does not think that the Supreme Council will stay in charge for too long (nor do they desire it). Dr. Amr also mentioned that there are no disastrous consequences for this scenario, either.
  • When asked over the toppled Egyptian State Security, Dr. Amr suggested a formation of of a legal committee to question the violation of human rights that occurred over the years in the State Security and that transformed the Egyptian State Security into the Egyptian Presidential Security.
  • Over the course of his lecture, Dr. Amr kept mentioning that no one can tell any Egyptian where the 'public good' is anymore and that we are all judges of our own country. He included parties and people that claim there are 'external forces' awaiting to pounce on Egypt which (the parties and such people), he says, use the tone of the toppled system.
Wow, that is one long summary but it cannot do the lecture justice! It was very interesting and Dr. Amr is an engaging and witty speaker! I'm glad I took the time to go and see him at the B.A!

Tomorrow, insha-Allah, I am attending a lecture for Dr. Mohammed Saleem El-Awwa (a professor of law, practicing lawyer, author of tens of books on law and crucial Islamic matters and member of the International Association of Muslim Scholars) who will speak for an acceptance of the suggested changes in Constitution and I will try to blog about it too, so stay tuned!

Take care,

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