Egypt: Approving a flawed constitution
The hastily written constitution all but guarantees that the Muslim Brotherhood will dominate Egypt for decades to come.
“I voted No,” said Dina Wahba in Al Majalla (U.K.). The hastily written constitution that about half of us Egyptians voted on last week—the second stage of the referendum will be held shortly—is unworthy of the revolution that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago. It “fails to guarantee women’s rights, children’s rights, minority rights, or religious, economic, and social rights.” Islamic sharia law is the basis for legislation, and religious freedom is accorded only to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. One article outlaws blasphemy and some forms of “insult”—provisions that give the government the power to muzzle the press. Another calls for the preservation of “the genuine character of the Egyptian family”—code for keeping women at home. Of course, that’s hardly surprising since only four women remained in the nearly 100-member assembly that wrote the document after three other women “walked out in protest.” Such a constitution all but guarantees that the Muslim Brotherhood will dominate Egypt for decades to come.
The content of the constitution is bad enough, but the way it was rammed through is even worse, said The National (United Arab Emirates) in an editorial. The opposition had objected to the constitutional assembly, but before the Supreme Court could rule on its legitimacy, President Mohammed Mursi made an unlawful decree that all his orders were “final and unchallengeable” and that the assembly could not be dissolved. The assembly then rushed through a vote approving the draft, and Mursi set the referendum dates, prompting a massive, bloody protest. “The unilateral action has understandably raised fears of a renewed autocracy.” When, weeks from now, the final results are in, Egypt will “have nothing resembling closure.”
That’s ridiculous—this is democracy in action, said Mustafa Ubayd in Al-Jumhuriyah (Egypt). Do I object to a few items in the constitution? Sure. But still, it “honors martyrs of the revolution” and recognizes the authority of Sunni scholars at Al-Azhar University. We certainly can outline a basic law even if we don’t “reach 100 percent accord” on everything. Actually, you’re pretty far even from a majority, said the Daily Star (Lebanon). Turnout “was low enough to render any verdict worthless.” In the first round, just 32 percent of those eligible to vote that day cast ballots, and just 56 percent of them voted Yes. “So really, only 18 percent of Egyptians are in favor of the constitution.” And since many of the judges who were supposed to ensure fairness at polling places stayed home in protest, we can’t even be sure that figure is accurate.
“Egypt is going to pay dearly for this division,” said Abbas al-Tarabili in Al Wafd (Egypt). The secularists and youths who demonstrated for the overthrow of the old regime—and even those still loyal to the old regime who hate the Muslim Brotherhood—will not be silenced. “I believe that the only way to save the country is by forming a national unity government that can embark on writing a new constitution.” This one will never be legitimate.