Draft Charter In Egypt Cements Military Powers

After the military removed Mohammed Morsi from power in Egypt, it announced that a new draft constitution would be created to implement a necessary political transition towards democracy. The 50 member panel responsible for the creation of the draft announced that it was finished on December 2. Now, the draft will be subject to a nationwide referendum within 30 days to ratify the document. The new draft constitution is a key first step in implementing the political transition.

Egypt’s ousted Islamist president adopted numerous amendments to the constitution that granted the military more privileges while removing articles that liberals saw as setting the stage for the creation of an Islamic state. This essentially cemented the military in its place as the nation’s most powerful institution and the source of real power in the country. The amended document strengthens political and personal rights by using stronger language than past constitutions. However, some rights experts have expressed concerns that the political power carved out for the military may result in those rights becoming irrelevant.

One area of particular concern is the clause that states that the armed forces will enjoy the exclusive right of naming the defense minister for the next two presidential terms. An acceptance of this clause gives the military autonomy above any civilian oversight. Even more alarming, the charter does not say how the post will be filled following that eight-year transitional period. Hossam el-Hamalawy, a leading member of the Revolutionary Socialists movement, said, “This just paves the way for a bigger role for the army in becoming the main power broker.”

A 2011 uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, who ruled the country for 29 years. The 2012 charter was the country’s first constitution after the fall of Mubarak and was largely drafted by Morsi’s Islamist allies. That document won a December 2012 referendum with about 64 percent of the vote, but with a low turnout of little more than 30 percent. Egypt’s new leadership is pushing for the revised charter to win by a greater margin as a show of the legitimacy of the post-coup system. There has been continuing protests by Islamists furious over the coup against the country’s first freely elected president.

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