Egyptian “Acts of Sovereignty” (SiC 2)

Nathan Brown at “The Arabist” blog sees the format for compromise between Morsi and broadly speaking liberal forces in a statement from Egypt’s Supreme Judicial Council that, in sum, seeks to distinguish between those acts by the chief executive that fall under the doctrine of “Acts of Sovereignty” and those that mistakenly intrude upon normal law and politics.

Brown acknowledges that the distinction may be difficult for some even to understand, much less accept:

If that is less than clear, the problem is not merely my ability to explain. It’s also the doctrine itself.

“Acts of sovereignty” is a vague idea that past authoritarian rulers have used as a bulldozer. A lot of judges are embarrassed about the doctrine and the Supreme Constitutional Court in Egypt tried to chip away at it in the 1980s and 1990s and even move toward an approach more familiar to Americans in which courts restrain themselves in some “political questions” that are properly left for the political process rather than any judicial one

If Egyptian jurists are “embarrassed,” they should be embarrassed not by invocation of the doctrine with all of its ambiguities, which are in principle universal and inherent to the formation of states, but by the political failures underlying the predicament.

Brown later refers to the Egyptian 20th Century and French 19th Century legal precedents under discussion as “abstruse,” but the French legal tradition on this question that developed during the 18th-19th Century did so under circumstances of repeated breakdowns of the state – revolution, counter-revolution, invasion, and sometimes more than one at a time – not on the basis of some legal scholar’s afternoon musings. French law had good reason to seek detailed (not the same as fully coherent) protocols for declaration of the “state of siege.” 20th Century Egyptian history reveals a similar problematic.

As for current circumstances, the fact that the new Egyptian constitution is not yet written and ratified implies that an Egyptian people is literally not yet fully constituted. It’s busy being born or re-born, finding itself in the historical mirror – thus the strongly perceived abnormality and uncertainty of the current period, which President Morsi hopes to foreshorten, for better or for worse. For that aim, or pretext, he is called “dictator,” but, as Leo Strauss observed, a dictatorship can be received as “just” by the people or by philosophers (or history), if in the way that a punishment is just. The resort to the “act of sovereignty” reflects a failure of the state, and at some level a failure of the state presumes a failure of the people to assert itself self-consciously, to stand up on its own. Yet “revolution” is also a punishment in this sense, equally the result of a failure of the state – a desperate call to the “constituting power” from which any actually “constituted power” derives and that in theory can wipe away any inherited law, institution, or tradition.

The resultant confusions and un-clarities are not scholarly curios, but the most fundamental problems of governance, at the core of everything that a given polity will call or be able to call lawful or criminal, just or unjust. We can seek sociological, economic, cultural and other explanations for the survival of some laws and structures and the extinction of others, and for the placement of one individual, group, movement, class, etc., in the position to perform “acts of sovereignty,” but such acts are concrete, not merely logical or lawful, determinations: They will not merely be reasoned or argued into being.

For the same reason, forcing or persuading Morsi and his movement to compromise will not by itself solve the Egyptian problems. It may however help to constitute a new Egyptian sovereignty along broader lines than purely Islamist ones, supply the deficits in the Islamist theory of the modern nation-state, and preserve a liberal democratic opening – not small things.


WordPresser
Home Page  Public Email  Twitter  Facebook  YouTube  Github   

Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution.

2 comments on “Egyptian “Acts of Sovereignty” (SiC 2)

Commenting at CK MacLeod's

We are determined to encourage thoughtful discussion, so please be respectful to others. We also provide a set of Commenting Options - comment/commenter highlighting and ignoring, and commenter archives that you can access by clicking the commenter options button (). Go to our Commenting Guidelines page for more details, including how to report offensive and spam commenting.

  1. Right, that was why the Courts freed the butcher of Luxor, Mustafa Hamza, why Al Zamor, the architect of Sadat’s assasination is in parliament, how about find a way to feed the people, clean up the streets, institute a basic ethics code, and don’t first chose to encourage a bunch of thugs like Hamas, baby steps,

Commenter Ignore Button by CK's Plug-Ins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Related

Noted & Quoted

[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

Comment →

So, does Mitchell make any money on the work, which has been shared so many times? He uploaded a high-res image of the symbol and granted permission for anyone to use it personally for free. But for those who want to support his work or simply want something readymade, you can also buy T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, and journals emblazoned with the symbol through Threadless.“I really just want to spread the image as much as possible and cement it in history,” Mitchell says. “In all honesty, the amount I’ve made from my Threadless shop so far is still less than my hourly rate, so I don’t really see it as a big deal. If you look at my Twitter, half the replies are people wanting to know where they can buy a shirt. Threadless is happy to help them out with that, and so I’m happy to let that happen.”Now that the symbol has flooded our streets and our timelines, Mitchell just has one request: “Impeach this idiot already,” he says.

Comment →

This is a Waterloo moment for Trump, the tea party and their alliance. They have been stopped in their tracks not only by Democratic opposition but because of a mutiny within their own ranks. Although never particularly liked or respected, it is now clear that they are no longer feared. The bankruptcy of their ideas and their incompetence have been exposed. Their momentum has been dissipated. Their rejection of political norms has itself been scorned. Our long national nightmare may finally be coming to an end.

Comment →
CK's WP Plugins

Categories

Extraordinary Comments

CK's WP Plugins