A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Catching Up on Egypt: The Constitutional Draft

Over much of the past week I, like almost everyone, have spent a lot of time on Syria. Except for a couple of lighter posts about the "spy duck," we haven't been looking at the continuing situation in Egypt.This post deals with the Constitutional draft and the committee set to debate it; I'll turn to other current issues in Egypt later today or tomorrow.

The new proposed constitutional draft, which amends the 2012 Constitution and was drawn up by ten judges and lawyers, now goes to a 50-person committee which will have the power to discuss it and recommend changes (its exact powers are still a little vague).

You can find an unofficial English draft translated by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) and posted here at the website of the Egyptian-American Rule of Law Association (EARLA) (link is to a PDF).

The go-to guy around these parts is usually Nathan Brown, and he has weighed in via The New Republic, warning that "Egypt's Rulers Are About to Make the Same Mistake Morsi Did: Seeds of Dissent on a New Constitution," noting:
Are Egypt’s current rulers making the same mistake as their Muslim Brotherhood predecessors of pushing through a constitution that will alienate their allies and agitate their opponents? A committee of ten judges and law professors have drafted a document that reflects the priorities of the deep state but offers far less to others.
There are already some signs that those who dare not criticize the military generals and police officers can fearlessly turn their guns on the new constitution. The new regime will almost surely survive the struggle, but the coalition that supported its seizure of power may begin to fray under the pressure.
He notes that the amendment process was neither transparent nor open, that the 50-person committee that will now debate the draft is unlikely to agree on major changes, and that the history of constitutional referendums, such as the one that will follow, is not reassuring. Of the 50-member body, he says:
Second, selected critics will soon have their say. President Adli Mansour is supposed to appoint a committee of 50 officials, civil society leaders, and politicians to review the proposals. The committee is skewed heavily against Islamists and mildly toward official actors; its precise mandate remains a bit murky. But, nonetheless, the constitution will soon be subject to nitpicking. It is difficult to envision such this new (quite diverse) committee producing either a set of agreed-upon changes or a consensus supporting the existing draft; instead, it is likely to provoke a set of minor changes and a major amount of grumbling.
This committee was named last week, and consists of a wide range of people from civil society and the professional syndicates, some youth movement representatives, the head of the Tammarud Movement, human rights activists, a few nominal Islamists including a Nour Party Salafist (but no Muslim Brothers), several Azharis, the Grand Mufti, a Coptic Orthodox bishop, a Coptic Catholic bishop, and the head of the Evangelical (Protestant) Church in Egypt, an artist, a writer, and so on.  The state-owned Ahram Online offers a "Who's Who" here, while blogger Zeinobia offers her own Who's Who with comments.

Some of the choices are controversial; others, like Amr Moussa, were associated with the old regime. The Army representative comes from the Military Court System, itself controversial, though the military passages in the 2012 constitution were not altered.The Coptic Church representative is Bishop Paula, head of the Church's Marital Affairs bureau, who sparks controversy within the church due to the ongoing debate over divorce.

No comments: