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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs