News / Middle East

Egypt's Proposed Constitution Stirs National Debate

Egypt's Proposed Constitution Stirs National Debatei
December 03, 2013 7:20 PM
As Egypt works out a new draft constitution, a period of public debate ahead of a national referendum has begun. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott reports from Cairo that political analysts are split on whether it is an imperfect document good enough for now, or if it misses an important opportunity.
Egypt's Proposed Constitution Stirs National Debate
Elizabeth Arrott
As Egypt works out a new draft constitution, a period of public debate ahead of a national referendum has begun.  Political analysts are split on whether it is an imperfect document good enough for now, or it misses an important opportunity. 

With more than 200 articles, Egypt's new draft constitution details everything from the protected role of the military to the rights of fishermen.

Its authors, handpicked by the military-backed government, are hailing it as a success, and say they expect it to pass in a referendum in the coming weeks.

If so, it would become the nation's fourth basic charter in the past three years. Political analyst Saad Eddin Ibrahim of the Ibn Khaldun Center said, while not perfect, it was the best in Egypt's history - so far.

“In terms of reducing the powers of the president and of the executive generally, in terms of holding many public officials accountable to popular questioning and accountability, these are all very positive features of the new constitution,” he said.

Others argue the new version doesn't reflect the profound changes in Egypt since the 2011 revolution, including the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi earlier this year.

The new draft is stripped of some references to Islam - a move strongly opposed by Morsi supporters who have denounced the draft.
It also grants greater civil rights. But political activist and influential blogger Wael Khalil said any charter was only as strong as the commitment of those charged  to enforce it.

“It maintains the structures of power and privileges of certain sections. It doesn't really empower the citizen in a way that to have a stronger relation with the institutions, with authorities, with power,” he said.

Khalil points to an article that allows for the freedom of assembly, qualified by the phrase “in accordance to the law.” 

One law, recently enforced, was so restrictive as to make the constitutional guarantee, he argued, meaningless.  And that, he added, could affect people's reaction to the constitution and the government as a whole.

“The kind of backlash will really depend on how they are acting.  I think the assembly law was a stupid, stupid move.  It's not going to serve them at all,” said Khalil.

But Ibrahim argued that recent protests against that law illustrated the changes that had altered the dynamic between Egypt's rulers and ruled.  

“The people of Egypt will be the safeguards, the great safeguards to the new constitution, which is now being intensely debated, has been for some time, and they will have the opportunity to say yes or no,” he said.

The interim government expects enough people will come out to approve the new charter - which some hope would give it more legitimacy than the last one.  Low voter turnout meant the 2012 constitution passed with less than 20 percent of eligible votes.

Khalil was not so sure, and argued many people were disenchanted.  He added, jokingly, they would wait to vote on the next constitution next year.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs