As time for the referendum on the amendments of Egypt’s constitution draws near, more Egyptians voiced their concerns over the amended and unamended articles alike as well as over the principle of amending instead of rewriting the constitution.
“No to the March 19 referendum,” read placards carried Friday by protestors who gathered in Tahrir Square, the center of the Jan. 25 revolution that forced president Hosni Mubarak to step down, for another rally that they called Friday of National Unity, the Egyptian daily independent al-Shorouk reported Sunday.
This and other placards that bore phrases like “No to constitutional amendments” and “It is the people who write their constitution” reflected the stance of several political parties and popular movements that oppose the amendments and call for the cancellation of the referendum.
Opposition parties object
“As they call for the establishment of a democratic, civil state, the youths of al-Wafd declare their rejection of the new constitutional amendment,” said a statement issued by the liberal opposition party al-Wafd.
The statement, entitled “The crescent lives with the cross: No to the constitutional amendments,” explained that “patching” the constitution, the term used in Egyptian slang to refer to amendments, is not possible with the 1971 constitution.
“This is an illegitimate constitution that creates a dictator out of the new president,” said the statement.
Like several parties opposed to the new modifications, al-Wafd called in its statement for the formation of a committee that writes a new constitution.
The leftist al-Tagammu party issued a similar statement entitled “People demand a correct transition” that called for the immediate cancellation of the constitution that gives the president dictatorial privileges and the declaration of a temporary constitution until a new one is written from scratch.
“For the new constitution, a committee has to be formed and its members are to be elected,” the statement added.
This is an illegitimate constitution that creates a dictator out of the new president
Al-Wafd part statement
Popular fronts say “No”
Like political opposition parties, popular fronts and parties under construction, which are grouped under the name “The popular fronts in defense of the revolution,” expressed their rejection of the amendments.
“No to constitutional amendments, no to patching the constitution” was the title of the statement issued by the Revolutionary Egypt movement that called for annulling the 1971 constitution.
“The 1971 constitution is in tatters due to the amendments made by the ousted president and his lawmakers so that now it gives the president almost 88% of the authorities of several different countries,” said the statement.
A statement entitled “No to absolute presidential powers. Yes to a new constitution” was issued by the Socialist Renewal Movement.
“We demand a constitution that really represents the interests of millions of Egyptians and that curtails the authorities granted to the president in order to reach a real democracy,” said the statement.
Rights activist and member of the Revolution Youth Coalition Mohammed Salah al-Sheikh expressed his rejection of the way the transitional period is being handled.
“We will call for the cancellation of the referendum and announcing a temporary constitution until a new one is written,” he said. “If this does not happen, we will instigate the people into saying no in the referendum.”
Sheikh called upon the Supreme Military Council, which took over after the resignation of Mubarak, to issue the constitutional statement prepared by the National Assembly for Change.
“The statement stipulates that after the army’s six-month rule is over, a president is to be elected for a two-year transitional period, in the second year of which a committee if formed to write a new constitution.”
We demand a constitution that really represents the interests of millions of Egyptians
Socialist Renewal Movement
Seeing the reactions
Coalition member Mohammed al-Qassas said that Revolution Youth Coalition postponed issuing a statement on the referendum until they see the reactions of the members of the Supreme Military Council and the amendments committee towards their demands.
“We demanded limiting the president’s authorities and offering guarantees that the People’s Assembly stays for only 12 months and that both the elected president and the MPs are to write a new constitution within 12 months in case it is not written now.”
Qassas added that in case their demands are not met, members of the coalition are working on printing and distributing half a million flyers that incite the people to reject the amendments in the March 19 referendum.
Coalition members have voiced their concerns to judge and legal expert Tarek al-Bishri, who heads the committee in charge of amending the constitution, and called upon him to reconsider the amendment of article 75 of the constitution and which prohibits carriers of dual nationalities to run for presidency even if they give up the foreign citizenship.
According to coalition member Mustafa Shawki, members also expressed their reservations over article 189 which gives the People’s Assembly and the Consultative Assembly, Egypt’s lower and upper houses of parliament, respectively, the right to choose the committee that writes a new constitution.
“This article is dangerous because the fast parliamentary elections are likely to result in a deformed parliament comprised of the remnants of the former ruling party,” he said.
Members of the coalition called for announcing a temporary constitution comprised of 15 articles at most and which determines the mechanisms of the transitional period and the authorities of the new presidential council that is to be formed.
Professor of political science Dr. Mustafa Kamel al-Sayed called upon those who reject the new constitutional amendments to express their objections in a democratic manner through going to the polls as well as raising awareness among the people.
“Democratic objection is in line with the new spirit promoted by the Jan. 25 revolution,” he said. “The results of the referendum will determine whether the constitution should be amended or annulled altogether.”
Sayed supported the objections to the amendments for the same reasons, the authorities given to the president especially that it is according to this constitution that the new president will be elected.
Sayed suggested that a new constitutional declaration should be issued in order to determine the role of the Higher Military Council and its relationship with the current political powers.
“The transitional period has to be extended in order to have time for writing a new constitution and the presidential elections have to be held before the legislative elections.”
Sayed recommended that a new council be formed to include the Higher Military Council in addition to other political power and different unions.
“This allows for smooth negotiations and spare us further conflicts,” he concluded.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)
Democratic objection is in line with the new spirit promoted by the January 25 revolution
Professor of political science Dr. Mustafa Kamel al-Sayed