Military Lets Muslim Brotherhood Take the Heat Understanding Egypt in Year Three

By Carl Finamore

.workers and youth fill the streets leading into Tahrir Square after Mubarak resigned

Workers and youth fill the streets leading into Tahrir Square after Mubarak resigned(Photo by Carl Finamore)

The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), gets most of the attention these days when discussing Egypt. Criticism flows easily and the FJP’s reputation has definitely been sullied and bloodied because of their numerous sectarian and undemocratic policies.

But, what appears most remarkable is that the military establishment has been relatively unscathed in the polarized battles that have erupted the last several months. In fact, this is not accidental. It is the result of very clever political maneuvering by the country’s military leaders.

It is certainly true that FJP leader, President Mohamed Morsi, made himself an easy target by recklessly misusing his extensive constitutional authority to appoint cronies and to issue unilateral decrees.

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Labor Unions Under Attack in Morsi’s Egypt

by Ian Hartshorn

Egyptian worker demonstration March 2011

Egyptian worker demonstration March 2011

While many have focused on Mohamed Morsi’s recent actions toward the Judiciary and Constituent Assembly, the Egyptian president has quietly consolidated power over institutions affecting the lives of millions of workers, namely, Egypt’s labor unions.

A day after giving himself vast new constitutional powers on November 22, Morsi amended the country’s 46-year-old trade union law. The decree represents a major shift in a fundamental Egyptian institution.  It also suggests the continuation of the Muslim Brotherhood’s growing influence on a movement it has long ignored.

Targeting Trade Unions

At first blush, Morsi’s amendment may seem benign. It limits board membership in trade unions to those under sixty years of age. It also extends current union boards for an additional six months after which new elections will be held. In the interim, the Minister of Labor will be allowed to fill any vacancies.

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Egypt: Independent Unions Protest Anti-Strike Law

by Paul Garver

The Egyptian cabinet has issued a draft law that would criminalize strikes, protests and sit-ins by imposing prison sentences and fines on anyone who calls for such actions.

Ths draft law has already been approved by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces oppose strikes because they operate many profit-making businesses, including food processing industries, often acquired by misappropriating billions of dollars in U.S.military aid.

The newly organized Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU), describing the decree as “a grave and worrisome development” intended to stifle the democratic revolution and block the creation of a genuine civil society in Egypt, is organizing protest demonstrations.  The discredited official Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) affiliated to the ruling government party supports the legislation.  Sharon Burrow, General Secretary of  the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), states:

“Working people do not need discredited and unrepresentative remnants of the old regime to talk on their behalf. Like workers everywhere, they are perfectly capable of organising their own trade unions, but they can only do this effectively if the authorities refrain from the anti-democratic habits of the past.”

The independent Egyptian labor unions sent messages of support and even pizzas to the demonstrators in Wisconsin.  We should reciprocate by supporting worker rights in Egypt in any way we can.  It is vitally important that the democratic revolution progress in Egypt, and defending the right to strike and protest is an absolute prerequisite for further advance.

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