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Egypt's draft constitution unveiled amid political divisions

Ideological differences continue to dog Constituent Assembly as first incomplete draft of national charter is official released

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 11 Oct 2012
Egypt
A general view of the two chambers of parliament meeting to elect the 100 members of the constituent assembly in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)
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The Constituent Assembly released an early incomplete draft of Egypt's constitution for public discussion on Wednesday as it rebutted growing criticism by secularists, liberals and Salafists.

Mohamed El-Beltagi, a leading member of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and chairman of the assembly’s Proposals Committee, said: "The draft is incomplete because it does not include chapters on judicial authority and another regulating the relationship between the state and armed forces.”

“Egyptians will be required to vote on the constitution as a whole – not on an article by article basis – in a yes-or-no public referendum,” he added at a press conference launching the draft.

A “Know Your Constitution” publicity campaign will be launched on Thursday, he said.

Gamal Gibriel, chairman of the assembly’s System of Governance committee, said: “Members of the assembly agreed that a mixed parliamentary-presidential system is the best for Egypt at the moment... Egypt is still not ripe or qualified for a parliamentary system and it is better for the moment to have a mixed system where the president and prime minister share powers.”

The bicameral system would be maintained, Gibriel added, with the People's Assembly being renamed the House of Representatives and the Shura Council becoming the Senate.

The House will act as the main watchdog over the government, while the Senate will have legislative and supervisory powers but will not have the right to discuss the state budget or fire the prime minister, he said.

The draft maintains Article 2 of the 1971 constitution regarding the status of Islamic Sharia law. The article states that the "principles" of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation in Egypt. Ultraconservative Salafists had been calling for Sharia law to play a more prominent role.

The draft does not provide any role for Al-Azhar as a reference on Islamic Sharia despite strong pressure from Salafists.

The draft does not include any mention of reserving 50 per cent of seats in parliament for workers and farmers as was the case in the 1971 constitution. However, Gibriel said this did not mean the article had been deleted; rather that it was still a matter for public debate.

The assembly would complete its activities by 12 December or as stipulated by President Morsi's constitutional declaration on 12 August, El-Beltagi said, and in the meantime he hoped for a thorough public debate on the draft constitution.

The drafting process has been criticised in the media and lawsuits have been brought claiming the assembly itself should dissolved because it was formed in an unconstitutional way.

El-Beltagi’s words also came against the backdrop of a hostile press campaign and protests against various articles of the draft charter.

Members of two judicial authorities – the Administrative Prosecution and the State Cases Authority – began a strike on Monday against what they described as “attempts by the assembly’s chairman Hossam El-Ghiryani to strip them of judicial powers.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said the draft constitution does not do enough to protect basic human rights.

“The draft provides for some basic political and economic rights but falls far short of international law on women’s and children’s rights, freedom of religion and expression, and, surprisingly, torture and trafficking,” it said in an open letter on 8 October.

“Article 36 of the draft constitution," the letter went on, "threatens equality between men and women by saying that the state shall ensure equality between men and women as long as it does not conflict with “the rulings of Islamic Sharia” and goes on to say that the state shall ensure that a woman will “reconcile between her duties toward the family and her work in society.” 

HRW also said the draft constitution was discriminatory against non-Abrahamic religions, such as Baha'is, and imposes restrictions on freedom of speech by banning other interpretations of religious matters.

In response, Mohamed El-Sawi of the assembly’s Freedoms and Rights Committee accused HWR of meddling in Egypt's internal affairs.

“HWR wants to impose its positions on us and we will never accept such a flagrant intervention in our own affairs,” said El-Sawi.

Ideological divisions between secular and Islamist members of the assembly reached a crescendo on Monday, preventing consensus on several articles, such as the electoral system.

Most secularist on the assembly argued that President Morsi should not have the final say on the electoral system to be used at upcoming parliamentary polls.

“Morsi was granted this right by the constitutional declaration he issued on 12 August, but he should not exercise it,” said Maher Abdel-Fattah of the liberal Democratic Front party. “If President Morsi imposes a certain electoral system on the parliamentary polls, it would mean we are back to Mubarak-style authoritarian rule.”

There were calls for the electoral system that receives the most support from political parties to be used during the transitional period.

Some political groups have proposed a full party list electoral system be written into the charter because it would reduce the influence of familial and tribal connections. While the FJP has said it supports a mixed system of party lists and independent candidates.

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Timmy
13-10-2012 01:10am
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Hector ansari etc are all part of brotherhood posting team
First of all a consitutuion is NOTHING to do with those in power it is the law to protect ALL people. It is nothing to do with religion either as democracy means freedom of all religions. And if we are talking numbers nearly 50% did not vote for Morsi and above that all the copts dont want ismalic rule and above that people who didnt vote and DONT support ikwan which means the majority is not actually islamic at all. So to HECTOR it is obvious you are part of the brotherhood posting team who post on all forums and page, we know your tricks and no one will be fooled by you anymore.
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Hector M
15-10-2012 07:16am
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To Timmy
The allegation me being brotherhood posting team is not true. I am not even an Egyptian, but I know the Egypt is passing through a very difficults time, after so many sacrifices from Muslim to over throw Pharoah Mubarak, the outside forces with help of old regimes ramnents are working very hard to fail the revolution. This will not happen, Egyptians Muslims with 90% majority will succeed. As for 800 years in Spain Muslims ruled with peace with Churches, Synogoues, and Mosques side by side living in peace and harmony. When they got weak Crusaders kick out Muslims and Jews out. So my dear Muslims have very strong reason to believe the Islam is the answer to all problems of Egypt, and the world.
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A.K.
12-10-2012 04:13pm
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Consensus is urgently needed
If no consensus between the members of the Constituent Assembly (which may not be legitimate), and if some articles are still not finalised, then this is still work-in-progress and a referendum will be voted down. It is indeed sad to see the public opinion split 50/50 on the draft constitution (refer to other comments below). If this country is moving forward then consensus and reconciliation are urgently needed.
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7



Mokhtar Aly, tanta
12-10-2012 02:16am
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Religous Dictatorship
We we will not let it happen to jump from military to religious dictatorship. TBrotherhood cult will never hijack Egypt as they did with Islam.
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mumby
11-10-2012 03:22pm
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Think to be realistic
Constitution should be base on Egypt's interest.So religion and cultures of Egypt's should be consider as reference of it.Human Right just as a check and balance.It is nor sources of Egypt's interest
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Ez-Edeen, ALx
11-10-2012 03:04pm
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Failure
The committe does not have qualified people to write such legilation. Give to judges to do it.
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Mona Abdel-Aziz, Alex
11-10-2012 03:02pm
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Divisive
THe draft COnst. will divide the nation institutions and people against each other. Let judges write it free of religion and politic. We need to respect human rights first and ensure separation of powers. Take US constitution and adapt it.
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Hector M
11-10-2012 07:37pm
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Draft Constitution review
Writing constitution is not the responsibility of Judges. Their responsibility is decide the cases according to the constitution. There are majority of judges who dont know the sentiments, and needs of general public. So the judges should be out in this field. The people's elected MPs should work on the constitution. However they may take the input from other sources, but have the discretion to reject it, if not in the interest of the country and its people. Minorities can not dictate to majority in this matter.
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Dahroug, Port Said
11-10-2012 02:58pm
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Nonsense
It does not worth the papers it is written on. It is a recipe for confrontation between different gov. agencies and between gov. and people. I studied international law and it is shameless to abdicate human and women rights given by Islam. Shame on you.
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Amourah = Idris, Aswan
11-10-2012 02:55pm
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Disappointed
Is that what you came up with: a piece of trash that violates the civilized world. Are you living in a cacoon? Let Law acadimician right it. Get the religion and politics out of it. Backward people.
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Karim
12-10-2012 10:52pm
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civilized world?
Can you please define "civilized world" for me please? What is that?
Hector M
11-10-2012 07:40pm
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Reply to Idris
This is your minority's opinion, the majority's opinion is different than yours. Start living with majority's choices.
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Didi, ALex
11-10-2012 02:52pm
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Non-Islamic
THe draft failed to recognize Human and women rights stipulated in Islam. Who will control the money; is it the president or people representatives? What Shareha law should be applied? We need law scholars to draft the constitution; not some extremsits fanatics. Allah Kabeer Ya Beni Misr.
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Amourah Idris, Aswan
12-10-2012 02:12am
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Failed Islamic States
I agree with you DIdi form Alex. We need to learn from failed Islamic states around us. Brthorhood cult ists have stolen Islam and deviated fromj the MOrshed Elbana original message. for guidance.
Ansari
11-10-2012 07:44pm
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Reply to Alex
Alex, If majority wants this draft to approve that will happen. Your wishes are not popular in the country, so dont be jealous, sit down and relax, and watch how fast Egypt will be best country in the ME area.
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