Egypt’s new constitution - military might or liberal leeway? 10 key clauses scrutinized

Published December 3rd, 2013 - 10:56 GMT

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Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
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Image 1 of 10: Timing of elections: The new constitution calls for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held within 6 months - without specifying which should be held first. This is expected to favor likely presidential candidate General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who can then exert greater control over the make-up of Parliament. Not so inclusive a clause.

rights of minorities
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Image 1 of 10: Religion: Islam remains the religion of the state but the Islamic overtones of the prior constitution - such as references to “public morals” - have been removed. While discrimination based on religion is now forbidden, it is unclear how the state will protect the rights of minorities like the Baha'is, who can't even lawfully marry.

Muslim Brotherhood sent to Jail
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Image 1 of 10: Political parties: Apparently, citizens cannot form political parties on the basis of religion, gender, race, sect or geography (probably an existential blow to most party formations in the Arab wolrd!) This could pose a threat to the Brotherhood and other Islamist parties, and could be the source of explosive conflict in the days to come.

Tahrir square
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Image 1 of 10: Protests: With prior notification, citizens can hold general meetings, marches or protests, or any form of peaceful protests. But that didn’t stop police firing tear gas on protesters this week in Tahrir square. With accusations of the government being a police state, Mubarak-style, the peaceful protest proof will be in the pudding.

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Image 1 of 10: Women’s rights: The old constitution did not outlaw gender discrimination. The new constitution fixed that by committing the state to achieving gender equality. The Salafists protested this clause saying it could open up the door to (God forbid) female members of Parliament. The conservatives were shut down, and the inclusive clause was approved.

Progressive taxation
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Image 1 of 10: Progressive taxation: With the constant flow of revolutions, one might not compare Egypt’s legislative framework with Sweden’s. But Egypt’s new charter calls for progressive taxation. You make more; you pay more. But the jury's still out on just how the state will implement this new taxation in areas like sales and stamp duties.

Torture is a crime
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Image 1 of 10: Torture: In a coup for progressives, the new constitution says that torture in all its forms in Egypt is now a crime. While people will still be able to play Michael Bolton’s songs in public, all other forms of torture are a no go.

 military trial
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Image 1 of 10: Military tribunals: Today, pretty much anybody in Egypt can be tried before a tribunal. However, the new constitution forbids the military from trying civilians, unless they have specifically committed a crime against the army. You can’t say fairer than that!

constitution representation
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Image 1 of 10: Political representation: An original clause guaranteed parliamentary quotas for workers, farmers, young people, Christians, and persons with disabilities. The clause was upgraded to say that each category will be granted "proper representation." Like many of the clauses for clout, the implementation will speak much louder than words on paper.

Egypt constitution military powers
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Image 1 of 10: Military power trip: One add-on to the constitution that has gotten the Western media up in arms is that for the next 2 presidential terms, the notorious armed forces will enjoy the exclusive right of naming the defense minister. This smacks of the army - still fresh in its spoils of war, post Morsi-ouster - trying to maintain its surge of power.

In a significant development for Egypt’s interim government, a 50-member “secular” panel has approved a new draft constitution for Egypt. It’s been deliberated for months, and now that it has been finalized, it will be placed before Egyptian voters for a referendum and ratification in the coming months. The creation of the new constitution (many of the articles of the country’s previous constitution were seen as being discriminatory) is a major milestone in bringing back democratic rule to the Middle East’s most populous nation.

The previous constitution, which was developed by Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, was scrapped following the military coup that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood leader on July 3.

Several articles of the constitution served as kindling to the revolutionary fires that engulfed Egypt this summer - but has the lengthy process that the new constitution has undergone since Morsi’s ouster breathed new life into the document? Just what do the articles included in the new constitution say and mean? Is the new constitution an inclusive document that will heal the sharp divide between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secularists? Or does the new constitution (like its predecessor) merely serve to further cement the position of those currently in power?

Questions, questions, questions.

Questions that we hope this political picture panel will answer - so put on your judicial cap as we take you through nine of the most significant and controversial clauses in Egypt’s new constitution.


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