Tantawi’s political initiative provokes the regime

Ahmed Tantawi, a member of the Egyptian parliament, has put forward a new initiative consisting of 12 main axes aimed at achieving political reform in the country and building a modern, democratic state.

In a long video broadcast on Sunday evening Tantawi submitted a memorandum to the Speaker of the Parliament Ali Abdel Aal to form 12 parliamentary committees to discuss his initiative to get the country out of this political crisis.

Among the axes mentioned by Tantawi is the abolition of constitutional amendments that allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to remain in power until 2034. The initiative also included the abolition of a two-year state of emergency and the release of political prisoners. He also called for discussing the economy of the armed forces, which has grown significantly since the overthrow of late President Mohamed Morsi in the summer of 2013.

The initiative also dealt with the restructuring of the state budget, the restructuring of the judicial and interior institutions in line with countering terrorism and corruption, as well as reviewing international agreements.

Tantawi’s proposal sparked controversy among opponents of the Egyptian regime, some of whom supported it while others opposed it. On one hand, it would ensure the dismantling of the dictatorial system in the country. On the other hand, it is a tacit recognition of the legitimacy of Egypt’s dictatorship and allows al-Sisi to remain in power until 2022.

One of those who supported the initiative was the Egyptian businessman Mohamed Ali, who lives in Spain. Mohamed Ali said he was convinced that al-Sisi should leave now, but he would give this initiative its chance to the end. “Let us support it to see, although I am sure al-Sisi will not agree,” he told his supporters on Twitter.

Abdel Aal announced that Tantawi was being referred to the Committee of Values for questioning – this is a measure considered a prelude to the removal of his parliament membership.

“Anyone who doubts the legitimacy and deals with this country or leader negatively has no place in Egypt in general, let him go to another country to live in,” said Abdel Aal.

Tantawi was referred to the Committee of Values by request of 95 parliament members in preparation for the abolition of his membership. So, a few days after its launch, Tantawi’s initiative appears to have been rejected by the regime, as well as by a large part of the opposition.

Al-Sisi’s fake statements

Tantawi justified the timing of his initiative by saying that it came after al-Sisi’s speech, which called on the House of Representatives to play its role. In that speech, al-Sisi told lawmakers: “You have a responsibility, and every matter is subject to a complaint that needs to be addressed, and you should make committees, make reports and make them public.”

That is what Tantawi did, but it made al-Sisi angry. The opponent MP said that the initiative provides for the formation of 12 parliamentary committees aimed at creating a national dialogue on the political, economic and social problems facing the country.

He said that these problems came as a result of the lack of separation between the executive, legislative and judicial authorities, and the fact that decision-making power lies in the hands of the president.

Tantawi called on General al-Sisi to leave office in 2022 and to call for early presidential elections in which he will not be a candidate, in compliance with the pledge he has repeatedly made that he will not run for more than two terms.

He stressed the importance of the abolition to the amendments to the 2014 constitution, which represented a major setback in the balance between the authorities.

He considered that the “abolition of the amendments of the constitution is a guarantee to avoid the country being at risk of being drawn to the paths that Egypt cannot bear.”

Among the articles of the initiative were the restructuring of the state budget, its status, and the formation of an anti-corruption committee to review important legislation such as the Witness Protection Law.

The initiative also provided for the formation of a committee to develop a national strategy to counter terrorism and to study the general situation of human rights and freedoms in Egypt.

It called for creating a committee to review controversial legislation such as the NGO Law, and the law on government contracts.

He also stressed that there is a need to form a committee to study international disputes, chiefly the framework agreement on the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Among the agreements that need review are the maritime delimitation agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, under which the islands of Tiran and Sanafir were ceded, which had serious implications for Egypt’s national security as a result of the internationalisation of the Strait of Tiran.

He also pointed to the importance of reviewing the maritime border demarcation agreement signed between Egypt, Cyprus, and Greece, in light of rumours about Egypt’s abdication of its rights to natural gas within its territorial waters in the Mediterranean.

Political opponents admit that al-Tantawy’s initiative is good theoretically, but it came at the wrong time. They told Egypt Watch that the initiative ignored the most important thing, which is that al-Sisi will not accept voluntary departure from power, or reducing his influence.