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

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora