Mubarak’s Third Speech – Well Played!

February 11, 2011

Mubarak last night said that the revolution has succeeded in bringing about changes and Omar Suleiman reiterated that in his follow up speech. Focus and excitement right now seem to be about the fact the Mubarak delegated his exclusive presidential powers to the Vice President, Omar Suleiman. Putting aside the fact that Omar Suleiman in himself is a Mubarak mini-me. A smarter Mubarak and potentially a scarier Mubarak. (Up until Wednesday night, I was saying that at some point both parties have to compromise and that Suleiman was an acceptable compromise. That was before I listened to the ABC interview, before I reread his statement on the political dialogue published in al masry al youm Wednesday, before a lot of things). But putting that aside. What does that mean?

There seems to be a fascinating drive towards abiding to the Constitution and the laws. The transition has to be constitutional. Nevermind that they haven’t been abiding to the Constituion for the past 30 years and that when they amended it, it was, inter alia, to constitutionalize the emergency law to undercut the people  people who were attacking it for being unconstitutional (!).

This sudden resurgence of Constitutional conscience is, on the one hand, amusing and, on the other, roundabout and incomplete.

Mubarak delegating all his powers to Suleiman was enacted according to the dictates of article 82 of the consitution. Yet according to that article, the VP doesn’t have the right to ammend the consitution, absolve parliament and the cabinet. Some analysts suggested that because Mubarak called for Constitutional amendments before he delegated his powers to Suleiman, then that means that the VP is ‘only‘ unable to absolve Cabinet and Parliament. So there is disagreement among constitutional analysts whether that is legitimate adherence to the constitution or just a way of desperately trying to look at the half-full by noting that sulieaman actually has more powers than meets the eye.

But that same article starts by saying that a VP steps when a ‘temporary circumstance prevented him from practicing his presidential powers’. Temporary. That specific qualification nullifies Mubarak’s and government’s argument calling for wholehearted adherence to the consitution. To the letter. Almost Asininely so.

Moreover, there was general agreement that Mubarak had already effectively lost his legitimacy and power and how long has it been since we have heard any statement directly from him anyways? After his notorious Tuesday speech, he crawled back into his shell and any statements or dialogue with the revolutionaries and opposition was done by Suleiman and Ahmed Shafiq. What he did was made offcicial to give the illusion of change. Now decisions that were already being made by Suleiman (probably in consult with Mubarak himself) but were not being publicly broadcasted and announced, will now be officially attributed to Suleiman.

Mubarak and state television played it very well. Up until Mubarak’s speech, state television was airing news about football scores in other countries, the weather, statements made by financial minister, omar suleiman statements stating that his ABC statements have been misinterpreted and Ahmed Shafiq denying any proof to allegations that the president will be stepping down. So those who had no access to satellite television did not go throught the emotional anticipatory whirlwind and as such, not only did they not have expectations that would be crushed (like others watching satellite television), they will also receive the speech as a huge concession on the government’s side. Mubarbak said that he called for consitutional amendments (which has been underway for a couple of days now so nothing new there), that he would condemn those responsible for the Wednesday chaos (again, both Shafiq and Suleiman have said that a couple of days earlier and Shafiq had further corroborated that by establishing the ‘invesitgative committee’ to assess the Tahrir revolutionaries statements [this in itself is problematic since the phrasing is ambiguous and makes one think that they will be questioning Tahrir demonstrators making them look somewhat like culprits. but that’s a point for a different entry. The point to note is that Mubarak did not say anything new regarding that point either). Moreover, he said that he was going to abrogate article 179 (emergency/terrorism article). But that doesn’t really mean much since we are indeed in a state of emergency for the next 6 months and the law, outside of the consitution, is still going to be applied for the upcoming transitional period. I am not criticizing the fact that it will be applied, on the contrary, I absolutely agree that it must be applied in the upcoming period. The point is, saying that he will eliminate it now doesn’t mean much other than it sounds good and sounds like a big deal but is in fact, in my opinion, irrelevant right now. The consitutional committee is not rewriting the Consitution in its entirety, only those articles crucial to the transitional period. So 76, 77, 88, 93 and 189. Article 179 will definitley need to be eliminated later on, because it was a consitutional abomination for it to have been incorporated in the first place, but for the here and now it doesn’t matter if it is eliminated in the consitution because the emergency law statute will still be applied. And finally that he delegated all powers to VP.

Anyone watching this speech without being exposed to the high expectations of him actually stepping down will think sweet! God bless him for responding to the revolutionaries’ demands. Specially because of the pathos-laden rhetoric that he knows resonates with Egyptians. EVen I sympathized with him when he started talking about us Egyptians and how he fought for this country for 50 years and wants to die here so on and so forth with his voice wavering with strained emotion and actually sounding (at least int the beginning).

And now the armed forces just issued their second statement supporting Mubarak’s speech and rheotirc by guaranteeing that they would be applied. More on this later. Going to Tahrir. Rabena yestor 3al balad w ye7ra2 Mubarak w 3end Mubarak.

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