News / Africa

Egypt’s New Constitution: How it Differs from Old Version

An official counts ballots after polls closed during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Bani Sweif, about 115 km (71 miles) south of Cairo December 22, 2012.
An official counts ballots after polls closed during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Bani Sweif, about 115 km (71 miles) south of Cairo December 22, 2012.
Egypt's new constitution, approved by voters in a two-stage referendum this month, replaces a 1971 charter that was suspended last year after a popular uprising deposed longtime president Hosni Mubarak.

Here is a look at the similarities and differences between the two documents in several key areas:

Role of Islam

Both constitutions designate Islam as Egypt's official religion and Islamic law, or Sharia, as the main source of legislation. They also obligate the state to "preserve" traditional family values based on Islam.

But in a key difference, the 2012 charter defines the principles of Sharia for the first time. It says those principles include "evidence, rules, jurisprudence and sources" accepted by Sunni Islam, Egypt's majority religious sect.

The new document also gives unprecedented powers to Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most respected religious school, by saying its scholars must be consulted on all matters relating to Sharia. The 1971 charter did not mention Al-Azhar.

Human rights

Both documents say detainees must not be subjected to any "physical or moral harm," and must have their dignity preserved by the state.
In a new protection of rights, the 2012 charter bans all forms of human exploitation and the sex trade.

Women's rights

Both documents commit the state to helping women with the financial costs of motherhood and the balancing of family and work responsibilities. But they differ on the issue of equality between men and women.

The preamble of the 2012 constitution says Egypt adheres to the principle of equality "for all citizens, men and women, without discrimination or nepotism or preferential treatment, in both rights and duties."

The new document's main section also contains two articles barring the state from denying equal rights and opportunities to citizens. But those provisions do not explicitly bar discrimination against women.

The 1971 constitution included one article that required the state to treat women and men equally in the "political, social, cultural and economic spheres," provided that such treatment did not violate Sharia.

Another article explicitly prohibited gender discrimination.

Freedom of expression

Both charters guarantee the freedom to express opinions orally, in writing or through images, and the freedom of the press to own news organizations and publish material independently.

In a major change, the 2012 document guarantees the freedom of belief for the "divine/monotheist religions" - a reference to Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

It says followers of those faiths have the right to perform religious rituals and establish places of worship "as regulated by law." The previous constitution made no mention of the rights of any religions other than Islam.

In another difference, the new document contains an unprecedented ban on "insults" toward the prophets of Islam.

Presidential powers

Both constitutions designate the president as the supreme commander of the military and the head of the National Defense Council, a body comprising six civilian Cabinet ministers and six top military officers.

The documents also say the president only can declare war with parliament’s approval.
Several constraints to the president’s authority were added to the 2012 charter.

It reduces the length of a presidential term to four years from six, and it says a president can only be re-elected once, not indefinitely as in the Mubarak era.

The president’s nominee for prime minister also must win a parliamentary confidence vote before taking office. Previously, the president had the right to appoint and fire the prime minister without a parliamentary veto.

In another new constraint, the 2012 charter obligates the president to consult the National Defense Council before declaring war.

It also makes no reference to a vice president. Former president Mubarak had the right to fill the post under the 1971 document, but he did so only in the final days of his rule.

Military powers

The new constitution significantly enhances the authority of the Egyptian armed forces. It says the president must choose a defense minister from among the military’s top officers. That choice had not been restricted before.

Under the new charter, the power to set the armed forces’ budget is granted to the National Defense Council, half of whose members are military officers.

Senior officers also gain the authority to put civilians on trial in military courts, but only in cases where the alleged crimes “damage the armed forces.”

In another boost to the military, the 2012 document creates a National Security Council with a balance of senior officers and civilian Cabinet ministers.

The Council is given the task of adopting strategies for establishing security, identifying security threats, and taking actions to address them.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs