Egypt’s constituent assembly on Tuesday forwarded a draft constitution to interim President Adly Mansour that it had finalized two days earlier.
Mansour is expected to approve the text
and call for a referendum in January.
“The government needs a few weeks
to prepare for the referendum, so we are talking about the first or second week
of January, but not much earlier,” Ahram Online quoted a government source as
The Egyptian website quoted another source from the Ministry of
Information as saying that the state-run media would work hard to “encourage
people to vote in favor of the new constitution.”
As part of this effort,
“we are planning to host several members of the drafting committee and several
activists during many programs on all the channels of Egyptian TV to explain why
this constitution could help achieve progress for all Egyptians.”
fact that the militarybacked regime, led by Gen.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is
trying to rush through a constitution banning religious parties signals that the
constitution will serve to solidify the new regime’s hold on power – removing
the main opposition camp from the political map.
The government has been
ruthlessly cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Islamic
terrorists in Sinai since the ousting of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi
The completion of the draft is a major milestone in the army’s
The 50-member assembly that Mansour had selected was
mainly composed of liberals and leftists. Its chairman was Amr Moussa, a former
Arab League secretary-general and candidate for the presidency.
to the document, military courts may try civilians in a range of crimes related
to the army, including direct assaults on military facilities, camps, military
areas, borders, military equipment and vehicles.
In addition, citizens
have the right to organize public meetings and all forms of peaceful protests,
though they must notify the authorities and gain their approval.
the new constitution would provide justification for the continued army
crackdown on the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups opposing the current
regime. And it could be used to ban protests that the regime does not
In effect, we are witnessing the reemergence of a military led
regime, as Egypt had under rulers such as former president Hosni
For Israel and the West, the constitution seems to fit
relatively well with their interests in a continued crackdown against Islamists
and a reduced emphasis on Islam.
Prof. Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe
Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, told
The Jerusalem Post that he does not think we are back to square one in Egypt,
but in a transitory period.
“There will be an ongoing struggle about the
different articles of the constitution.
And I don’t believe that Sisi is
the equivalent of Mubarak in that sense,” Rabi said. “Limiting the opposition
and dealing with fundamentalists is part of Sisi’s politics of survival. But in
order to improve his chance for survival, he will also have to consider the
voice of civil society as it has expressed itself in post-Mubarak and post-Morsi
Rabi pointed out that the constitution has to meet the
expectations of many different groups in society, and that the public may be a
more important player than it was in the past. He sees the regime as acting
differently than previous governments, in that it cannot ignore the will of the
“A new political culture is in the making. In a way, this applies
to every Middle Eastern state, although in each state the game is played in a
different way,” he said.
Prof. Yoram Meital, chairman of the Chaim Herzog
Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University of the
Negev, told the Post that the main weak point about the new constitution is not
its content, but the way in which it was constructed.
It was written
within the context of a raging political struggle between the militarybacked
government on one side, and the Muslim Brotherhood and some Salafis on the
other, Meital said. Instead of serving as a form of inclusion, the process
served as a form of exclusion, he said, thus lacking the necessary ingredients
to curb the deepening split in Egyptian society.
“The coming elections
could intensify the struggle between the opposing sides,” Meital said, adding
that “despite the rhetoric of the supporters of the new constitution, Egypt’s
road to stability looks difficult and long.”
Reuters contributed to this