Egypt’s constitution, a step forward despite differences

The new constitution has for the first time ever included articles on remote areas which were previously overlooked

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

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When Egyptian interim President Adly Mansour called on Egyptians to participate in the referendum on the constitution, which the 50-member committee finalized, he transcended beyond ordinary legislative measures and drifted towards celebration and perseverance. The celebration is of the first important step which the Egyptians committed to as part of the roadmap. This means that despite all obstructions, insistence to move forward is so far the best means to finalize the ongoing battle with the Muslim Brotherhood and their followers. The 50-member committee, others who represent the Egyptian political and social spectra and millions of Egyptians agree that what unites them is the conviction that this document is the way out of the current situation.

The current draft constitution has 247 articles of which 42 are new, 18 are on freedoms and rights and 45 are on laborers and peasants. The draft constitution has also ended the Shura Council and this grants the parliament the authority of legislating, deciding the government's general policy and supervising the work of the executive authority. Unlike the 2012 constitution, establishing parties on religious basis has been banned. Also, according to the draft constitution, the supreme constitutional court is the reference to interpret sharia principles.

Remarks on the constitution

There are many notes that can be presented when evaluating this draft constitution. One of them is perhaps that lengthy preamble which dealt with Egyptian history as per a selective vision. It therefore highlighted some phases and ignored others and presented Egyptians leaders in a way that many citizens would disagree with.

There have been other remarks regarding adding articles that go without saying and which are not subject to confirmation or doubt - like that article on the unity of Egyptian land. One of the controversial articles is that linked to assigning and choosing a minister of defense via the supreme council of the armed forces for a period of eight years from the time the constitution is passed. Those who criticize it do so because they think the military institution is being positively discriminated against, while those who support it - and there are actually many - do so because they think the army is the only institution that withstood the attack Egypt was subjected to and because, in the current phase, they think the military institution is the only institution capable of protecting popular will.

The new constitution has for the first time ever included articles on remote areas which were previously overlooked, like Sinai and Upper Egypt

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

The new constitution has for the first time ever included articles on remote areas which were previously overlooked, like Sinai and Upper Egypt. These areas are important for Egypt on the economic, political and security levels. The new constitution thus allows the integration of these areas in establishing states within the context of democracy and devolution of power.

The constitution also includes articles on increasing education and health allocations as well as articles on the right to issue dailies and establish unions and syndicates. There are also articles on prohibiting imprisonment in cases related to peaceful demonstrations of freedom of expression and speech. The constitution also supports all human rights within the principles of equal citizenship which criminalized discrimination according to sex, color, race, ethnicity, mental capability or political affiliation.

Controversy will remain but the super-majority knows that this constitution is an important step forward and a major pillar of the state’s stability. Therefore, the general orientation is the majority’s acceptance to move forward towards progress.

This article was first published in al-Jarida on Dec. 14, 2013.


Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy

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