20 DECEMBER 1930, Page 17

Letters to the Editor


[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] SIR,—Egypt has always longed and struggled for constitutional goVernment. So, no sooner was the Sarwat Ministry formed after the Declaration of Independence, than a committee was formed to draw up a regular Constitution. The result of its labours was a most up-to-date Constitution, which later events proved to be somewhat too much for the condition of the country. But what made things worse one year after the establishment of the Parliamentary regime was the successful attempt of the Wafd to replace the " two-degrees Electoral Law " by an " Electoral Law of direct suffrage." This system of direct election, it must be remembered, has only been reached in other countries after long and protracted experience. What was feared has thus taken place. The Parliamentary regime, during the last six years, instead of contributing to the tranquillity and well-being of the people, became a source of grave political crises and violent internal complications. This left the worst possible stamp on the moral and economic side of the country.

In 1928 it was found necessary to cure the evils by the suspension of the Constitution for three years. Circumstances, however, altered the course of events. The conversations that took place between the then Prime Minister of Egypt and the British Foreign Secretary resulted in Mr. Henderson presenting Egypt with a set of proposals that were expected to serve as a basis for a treaty of alliance between

Egypt and Great Britain. The constitutional regime, despite its serious defects, had to be restored, and elections took place on the lines of the Electoral Law of direct suffrage, exactly as it is the case in England, regardless of the great differences between the two countries concerning education, customs and the development in representative institutions. It is noteworthy that the Wafd has deliberately refused to express any opinion about the British proposals during the elections, for fear of committing itself- in some form or other. The real justification for the election—viz., to consult the people about the Proposals, was, therefore, missing..

Weakened by their mismanagement of Egyptian affairs

and by their failure in the negotiations in London, the Wafd Government wanted to strengthen their position by making laws. The first law was for the creation of a High Court of Cessation, to be the Supreme Court in Egypt. This law contained stipulations of a very serious character, namely, that judges were to be appointed irrespective of the present laws and regulations concerning employment, and that they were to be indismissible. This would mean that the COurt which would be the last resort for justice would be absolutely Wafdist. The second law was about the trial of Ministers. The underlying motive of this law was to supply the Wafds with a guarantee to remain in office in all circumstances and in the face of internal and external com- plications. His Majesty the King has rightly found out that this law is premature, and using his constitutional rights put the two draft laws aside. The Wafd Government ten- dered its resignation at once, without consulting its supporters in Parliament or even the members of the Wafd.

The fears of those who knew all the facts of the situation

were not without foundation. It was inevitable to form a new Cabinet from the ranks of the more reasonable elements : firstly, to restore peace and order ; and secondly, to reform the electoral law in order to assure for the country a truer and more- adequate representation in Parliament.

The honour of such a mission has been entrusted to me.

His Majesty the King has honoured me by asking me to form the new government ; and I am pleased to declare that I have scored Undeniable success as far as the first objective is concerned. As to the second, I am also glad to -announce the achievement of having prepared a scheme for reforming the constitutional regime of the country.

Our supreme desire was to find out the systems most suitable

for the present condition of the country. But I must hasten to dechite that the fundamental basis 'of the Conititution has been left intact, together with the articles concerning the liberties- and the rights which the people have gained after long and strenuous struggles. It is well-known that the problem of electoral laws of direct suffrage has not yet been solved in many countries. The electoral law of Great Britain herself is still liable to revision, so that the repre- sentation of the people should be as near perfection as possible. There should be, therefore, no surprise if we have introduced the modifications that we have thought fit for our country's customs, inclinations, and educational standing. No one knows the Egyptian peasant better than we do. He is a very hard-working man who is totally absorbed in his field and village. He hardly leaves his village. Whenever he wants anything he generally sends his wife to the market to get it while he spends his valuable time working hard on his field. He has no other horizon besides that of his village. He is illiterate, and it is only absurd to ask him to elect a lawyer who lives some fifty or sixty miles away from his village. But now the system is changed. Universal suffrage is stills maintained for all Egyptians, but instead of the elector electing a candidate they do not know, they now elect one of them who is superior to them in experience and knowledge, and who is better fitted to judge the qualifications of the various candidates. If we have laid sonic restrictions about those elector-delegates, we have not gone much farther than what was followed in England itself some time ago.

I feel inclined to believe that these reforms will he appre- ciated by all Egyptians, and my only live is that they should not be misunderstood abroad.

If our hopes are realised, the agreement between the Egyptian and the British nations becomes a certainty, thanks to the spirit of good-will in a country undisturbed by internal disputes created by apprehensions whenever an attempt to come to an understanding with a foreign poweris made.—I am, Sir, &c.,

[We welcome His Excellency Ismail Sidky Pasha's letter, and hope that the agreement between the Egyptian and British people, for which he is striving, will soon be brought to pass.—En. Spectator.]