Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Meet our next police state: Egypt

Authoritarian police states are all the rage — or at least they must be, with Egypt and others becoming only more undemocratic. Some of the terrorism-fighting provisions of indefinite length 'passed' in the probably-rigged vote are similar to those the US passed after 9/11 (though that vote was not rigged: it was not even a vote by the people but a decision by the executive to use terrorist attacks as an excuse to expand powers). Of course, it is much worse than that...

BBC News:

Controversial amendments to Egypt's constitution have been approved by 75.9% of those who voted in Monday's referendum, government officials say.

Turnout for the vote was 27%, the justice ministry said, although some independent groups put it at 5%.

The country's main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, boycotted the vote and criticised the amendments as paving the way for a police state.

A senior Muslim Brotherhood official said the result was forged.
President Hosni Mubarak hailed the result on Monday.

"The people are the real winners in this referendum. What has been achieved does not represent the end of the road," he said.
Officials say the changes will allow the drafting of a new anti-terrorism law to replace the emergency legislation in place since 1981, giving police wide powers of arrest and surveillance.

Article 5:
Bans political activity/parties based on religion
Article 88:
Removes judicial supervision of elections
Article 179:
Invokes special powers to fight terrorism

In addition, the amendments ban all religious-based political activity and parties, a blow to the Muslim Brotherhood - an Islamic party banned in Egypt which represents the strongest opposition force.
The amendments also allow the adoption of a new election law and do away with the need for judicial supervision of every ballot box.

Opposition groups have voiced fears about the wording of the articles on the new anti-terrorism law because it will be possible to bypass the constitutional guarantees protecting basic freedoms.

Human rights group Amnesty International has called the changes the greatest erosion of human rights since a state of emergency was declared after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat 26 years ago.

For a great article on Egyptian politics and Islamic democracy, see this Harper's article.

Russia is also making a steady and swift transition to an authoritarian police state under President Putin. Egypt is one step ahead of them, but Russia does have a larger organized crime element — often with political allegiances — that sprung up after the collapse of the Soviet state's tight security. However, they are both receiving foreign criticism.

Just as Putin and Mubarak are moving up the power ladder, another dictator, Pakistan's Musharraf, is facing plenty of opposition over his demanding a revered judge step down. The reason? Because the judge often ruled against the undemocratic Musharraf regime; he was a beacon of light in Pakistan's judicial and political darkness and corruption.

Not only does Musharraf look like a puppet of America to his own people, but to the US he is looking less and less like an ally, not least because of his recent agreement with the same tribal militants who are likely creating a haven for Taliban forces near the Afghani border, thus increasing Afghanistan's troubles.

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