Constitutional Conundrum: Longing for Mubarak?

Courtesy of AP Photography

Egypt is once again erupting in mass protests, as opposition groups from youth and liberals to Coptic Christians and moderate Islamists cry foul over the 100-member Constituent Assembly's rush to draft and pass a new Constitution, which critics say is unrepresentative and contains major ambiguities and contradictions. 

As President Morsi moves to expand his powers, limiting himself from judicial oversight, many Egyptians fear the country is slipping back into the grips of dictatorship, with some likening Morsi to his ousted predecessor Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt is going down a very dangerous path right now, and we have two choices: an Islamic dictatorship or freedom and democracy,” said 48-year-old financial manager Sayed Al Sherbine, in Tahrir Square, echoing the sentiments of many Egyptians.

Particularly controversial is Part 1, Article 2, which declares Islam as the state religion and Islamic Shari'a as the basis for legislation, and Part 2, Article 11, which says the state has power to issue unspecified laws that regulate "public morality, discipline and order."  

Article 2 is lifted directly from the Egyptian Constitution of 1971, the legal document by which Mubarak “governed,” but the new Constitution also includes Article 219, which seeks to broaden the scope of Shari’a law without specifying how it will be implemented or enforced.  Article 11 is not only at odds with the practices of a democracy, but also leaves the door open for government abuses of civil liberties similar to those practiced under Mubarak.  

Another contradiction is the debate over women’s rights.  The Constitution’s preamble calls for “equality and equal opportunities…for men and women, without discrimination or nepotism or preferential treatment, in both rights and duties,” while Article 10 calls for “preservation of the Egyptian family, its cohesion and stability, and to protect its moral values, all as regulated by law,” which seems to indicate the desire for women to remain in traditional roles.  Additionally, under the Islamists, women hold only 12 out of 498 parliamentary seats.

In comparison with the Mubarak regime, the new legislation appears to be moving backward, as deposed first lady Suzanne Mubarak pushed for pro-women legislation including the right of wives to sue for divorce and a quota system favoring female election candidates; however, that legislation has already been revoked, adding to opposition claims that given the current political climate “it’s like the revolution never happened.”   


Diwaniyya Contributor