A draft amendment to the Egyptian constitution was approved by a military-appointed 50-member committee on December 1. The draft will be submitted to the interim President Adly Mansour on December 3 where he will decide whether presidential or parliamentary elections will be held first in Egypt?s so-called ?roadmap.?


The committee known as a ?constituent assembly? has been working on the constitutional amendments for months. The committee was appointed as a transitional measure in the aftermath of the July 3 military seizure of power from President Mohamed Morsi of the Freedom Justice Party (FJP) which was allied with the Muslim Brotherhood.


Morsi has been held in detention since July 3 making only one public appearance at the beginning of a trial for alleged violent crimes committed both during the uprising against long-time United States supported dictator Hosni Mubarak and while in office as president. Morsi?s trial was adjourned after a brief hearing and the former president has not been seen since.


In the aftermath of the military coup on July 3, demonstrations by the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have been banned. The FJP has been outlawed while thousands of its supporters have been jailed and killed.


A political crisis under the leadership of President Morsi was utilized by the military to rationalize the seizure of power. Many Egyptians argued the July 3 military actions were in fact not a coup but a continuation of the ?January 25 Revolution? of 2011 where millions took to the streets demanding the resignation of Mubarak and his National Democratic Party regime.


Political Winds Shifting Against Military


Nonetheless, many of those who supported the coup against Morsi are now having second thoughts. The failure of the military-appointed regime to effectively address the overall economic and social conditions inside the country is one factor in the growing opposition as well as the recent passage of a ?protest law? that requires all demonstrations to require the approval of the interim government.


Those who challenge military rule have been met with harsh repression including beatings, teargas, arrests and even death. In Alexandria, 21 young women were sentenced to 11 years in prison for demonstrating against the military regime.


The chief lawyer for the Alexandria women was reported missing on December 2. Egyptian authorities have denied that Ahmed El-Hamrawy was being held in detention.


Nonetheless, a report published by Ahram Online stated that ?The lawyer’s wife and his defense colleague Mahmoud Gaber accused security forces of having allegedly arrested El-Hamrawy at his Alexandria home and taken him to an undisclosed location. ?? A subsequent report indicated that the prosecutor?s office had ordered El-Hamrawy released after several hours of questioning. (December 2)


In a demonstration against the sentencing of the Alexandria women at Cairo University on November 28, Mohamed Reda, 19, was shot dead allegedly by security forces. Reda?s death has sparked anger and additional protests among students across Egypt.


In an effort to defuse the controversy, the general prosecutor?s office announced on December 2 that Reda was shot dead by a fellow student. This assessment of the youth?s death has been rejected by his fellow student supporters.


Ahram Online reported that ?In a subsequent statement, the student union from Cairo University’s Faculty of Engineering, the same faculty in which Reba had been studying, slammed the prosecution’s report as ?lying? and a ?fabrication,? and vowed not to give up the slain student’s rights, raising the possibility of renewed protests. Security forces fired teargas on Sunday (December 1) to disperse hundreds of Islamist student protesters who had gathered in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square to condemn the killing of their colleague.? (December 2)


Ahmed Maher, a co-founder of the April 6 Youth Movement, a leading organization in the January 2011 uprising, is also facing prosecution by the regime. He was detained in late November for supposedly violating the new protest law.


Maher was released from jail on December 1 but his organization has condemned the ongoing detention of activists under the military. Renowned blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah was also arrested in late November for allegedly violating the protest law and remains in jail.


Rejecting the leadership of the FJP under President Morsi, many of the youth leaders of the January 2011 uprising supported the coup and refused to join anti-military demonstrations since July. ?However, it appears as if the political situation is shifting where the potential for new alliances may emerge amid the escalating crackdown against more secular elements within Egyptian politics.


One leftist youth organizer noted on December 2 that ?Many people did not go out on the streets because of the absence of a clear demand. But, after a while, things have become clear again. The state is still trying to preserve and renew its oppressive tools,? said socialist activist Khaled Abdel-Hamid. (Ahram Online)


?The interior ministry and all the security apparatuses are doing their utmost to exact revenge on the symbols of the January 2011 revolution,? ?Abdel-Hamid continued, a member of the Way of the Revolution Front, founded in September as a so-called ?third political force? opposed to both the military as well as the Muslim Brotherhood.


Meanwhile thousands of workers at the Egyptian Iron & Steel Factory located in Helwan, south of Cairo, went on a partial strike on December 2 over a dispute involving supplemental bonus pay. The workers had been engaged in a sit-in since November 26.


The plight of the workers is reflective of the overall economic crisis gripping the country. The plant?s workforce has laid off 60 percent of its employees over the last few years.


The Role of the United States in the Egyptian Crisis


In a recent visit by United States Secretary of State John Kerry to Egypt he reported that Washington would maintain relations with Cairo. It had been announced that the Obama administration was suspending aid pending the outcome of the current crisis of governance inside the country, but Kerry indicated that only certain aspects of military aid to Egypt would be suspended and that relations between the two governments was not solely based upon military assistance.


Egypt under the latter years of the Anwar Sadat leadership in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and during the course of Mubarak?s three decade tenure between 1981-2011, has remained a close ally of U.S. imperialism. The Obama administration has still not labeled the July 3 seizure of power by the army as a coup.


Saudi Arabia has stepped up its assistance to Egypt in the aftermath of the coup. Also Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov visited Egypt in November and announced plans for greater cooperation between the two countries.


The escalating political crisis in Egypt stems from the failure of the state and its economy to provide a decent standard of living for the majority of its people. As long as Egypt remains within the sphere of imperialist influence and control the conditions for the workers, farmers and youth will not improve.


Even with the toppling of Mubarak, who now has been released and is at home under military protection, Cairo has not fundamentally shifted its policy toward Israel. Several months ago the military along with the Israeli Defense Forces destroyed tunnels utilized by Palestinians to transport much needed food and other supplies to the 1.5 million people of Gaza, cited as the largest open-air prison in the world.


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