Last Updated: Thu Oct 18, 2012 09:53 am (KSA) 06:53 am (GMT)

Egypt must fight for modern constitution

Abdelatif al-Menawy

Egypt is experiencing a historical perilous phase. The initial indicators do not seem positive so far, but we should hold on to any possible hope to preserve the country from being dragged back into the dark ages.

While the developed world is turning around in an orbit, in Egypt, the current is pushing us to turn around into another orbit that is not related in any way to the present or the future. The country is struggling not to slide back into archaic customs and laws we read in history books.

To preserve Egypt, a battle must be fought to keep the constitution modern.
I think that one of the most important battles in which we should stand for, is what I call the battle of the constitution. It is crystal clear that what is going on now is an attempt to force the country to accept a constitution that is being produced by a committee whose legitimacy is contested.

Chaos and intimidations are created to enable the committee to pass a constitution that will form a gap between us and the advanced world; a constitution that will promote the domination of this movement.

To those who support the claim that the committee responsible for drafting the constitution represents many Egyptians, one should respond by saying that some of these committee members were misled and went astray. However, one should note not dismiss some of the respectable, highly-esteemed committee members.

To be more specific, I am referring here to what was mentioned in court by those who contested the legitimacy of the assembly, saying that the constituent assembly includes 24 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, 18 of the leaders and members of al-Nour Party and other Salafist parties and groups, three members of the Islamic Centrist Party and six individuals well-known for their support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The indications so far are not reassuring, and according to Hafez Abu Saada, one of the plaintiffs and head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, that this committee is working within the constituent assembly in favor of the president, and this shows in the constitution draft of what makes an eligible presidential candidate. In the new draft, there is no mention that the president’s children should not have dual nationality, although it is well known that the sons of the current president have obtained the American nationality.

Moreover, the constitution did not specify the end of the presidential term, so that the president can complete a full term. One of the lawyers declared that ten of the constituent assembly members were appointed as advisers paid by the president.

The real danger lies in the information leaked about the nature of some articles of the constitution that can be considered as tampering with the structure of the state including the judiciary, army, police, al-Azhar, the church and other important components of what makes Egypt.

Here, we return to all the controversy that took place earlier on the status of al-Azhar. It is not a surprise for those who follow the news, who are well-informed and skeptical about what is happening within the committee, to see the members of the constitutional court reject all the articles of the draft constitution that are related to the court. I will not discuss in this article what has been leaked regarding the stances towards women, their freedom and criminalization of trafficking women and children, or what has been leaked regarding the disastrous lowering of the legal age of marriage for girls, whether it will be nine or eleven years old; I will dedicate another article for this issue.

Apparently, the desire to have power and control is more powerful than all the voices of reason. What is important for them is to pass the constitution as they see it, as soon as possible. Indeed, they have been releasing information for weeks, that the draft constitution is ready and they will vote on it very soon. This resembles a race against time in order to pass the constitution before the judiciary judges the legitimacy of their committee.

The danger began at an early time, when the group was able to mislead the military government and then mislead 18 million Egyptians who voted in the referendum in favor of postponing the constitution until after the elections. This has enabled them to take advantage of the country’s situation to be in their favor.

In addition to their ‘legitimacy’, they independently formed the committee to their and to the ruling party’s benefit and under the pretext of useless cover of movements and qualifications.

Egypt has witnessed a great change, and countries that undergo great transformations usually develop temporary rules for an interim period to build step by step bases for democracy and good governance…democracy-building after all can take years and not weeks.

What is done is done, and here we are now, facing the reality of our lives. Our hope is to see the judicial rulings revoke the constituent assembly in order to put an end to this rash distorted committee.

We should not stop from pursuing our struggle in the battle of the constitution in any possible way even if the committee continues to work. Indeed this is what keeps us hopeful.

The writer is a former head of news at Egypt’s state television.

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