Monday, December 3, 2012

A very bad version of the Egyptian Constitution and a very big protest

Sit In at Tahrir. Credit: Al Masry Al Youm

There is so much going on in Egypt it is next to impossible to keep track of it all. But wait, I have had this feeling before!!!

To make a long story short, the draft Egyptian constitution is almost as unpopular as Morsi's decree. Here is a collection of materials about the massive Friday protests and the constitution.

The Associated Press reports, Islamists approved the Constitutional draft "without the participation of liberal and Christian members, seeking to pre-empt a court ruling that could dissolve their panel with a rushed, marathon vote that further inflames the clash between the opposition and President Mohammed Morsi." On Morning Edition, "Critics say it's not just that the president is rushing through an imperfect document, but one that could be dangerous. For instance, the draft constitution has preserved broad powers for the president although it does stipulate four-year term limits. There is still little civilian oversight of the military. And perhaps the most controversial part is the slightly expanded role and influence of Islam, which gives clerics a consulting role on legislation. "For all the hope of change, observers say the document is quite similar to the 1971 constitution it's expected to replace." In Egypt, Draft of Constitution OK'd (NPR)

Al Ahram reports that The finalization of Egypt’s new constitution did not help to stop protests. Egypt's Political Opposition holds firm (Al Ahram) Although given a 2 month extension, the Constituent Assembly finished the draft in a marathon session that lasted more than 15 hours. “According to analysts, the move was intended to placate activists and anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators angry at what they see as Morsi’s attempt to impose autocratic rule.” Once a draft constitution is approved via popular referendum, Morsi's decree will be cancelled and his legislative powers transferred to a newly-elected parliament. However, protests showed no sign of abating. Tahrir Square demonstrators, who are pushing for a 'no' vote in the upcoming referendum, believe the draft constitution neither fulfils the aspirations of Egyptians nor achieves revolutionary objectives.

"Egypt will not be forced to choose between a dictatorial declaration and a rushed constitution written by a fraction of Egyptian society… Egypt will not bow down to the will of a few," former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi. 
Protests had begun after Morsi's power decree on November 22nd, but the release of the poorly drafted constitution made things worse, not better. Egypt Constitution Protests (LA Times) Morsi continues to defend both his recent decree and the draft constitution, claiming that it is necessary to advance Egypt's political transition.  Human Rights Watch suggests that secular moderates in Egypt may approve the constitution because of the fear of a future full of uncertainty. 
Here are some of the more controversial articles of the constitution: Egypt Constitution Sparks Outrage (WSJ)
o   Article 2: Says that Islam is the religion of the state and that principles of Islamic Shariah are the primary source of legislation.
o   Article 11: The state has power to issue unspecified laws that regulate 'public morality, discipline and order.'
o   Article 150: President can call binding referendum on 'important matters related to the state's paramount interests.
o   Article 198: Military tribunals can try civilians for crimes 'that harm the armed forces.'

The Egypt Independent notes that
"Participants chanted against the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis. “Egypt for all Egyptians, not Brothers and Salafis,” they chanted, along with “Down with the supreme guide’s rule,” referring to the Brotherhood’s leader. Demonstrators call for canceling the new constitutional declaration, canceling the referendum on the current draft constitution, restructuring the Constituent Assembly to write a constitution that reflects the views of all Egyptians, and providing retribution for the martyrs of the revolution who have died since 25 January 2011. “Among the most prominent participants are the Free Egyptians, Strong Egypt, Egyptian Social Democratic, and Constitution parties, as well as the April 6 Youth Movement Democratic and Ahmed Maher fronts, the Coalition of Egypt’s Copts, the Popular Democratic Movement, the Maspero Youth Union, the Voice of Freedom Movement, the Free Front for Peaceful Change, the Coalition of the Lotus Revolution and the Revolutionary Youth Union.”"Thousands Converge on Tahrir (EI) 
Well, that is enough for today. 

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