Egypt Divided Over New Constitution Draft

The 100 member assembly tasked with composing Egypt’s new constitution releases unfinished draft, asks Egyptians to debate its content.

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Scott Krane,

Egyptian security officers
Egyptian security officers
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The 100 member assembly tasked with composing Egypt’s new constitution released an unfinished draft to the public Wednesday and has asked Egyptians to begin debating its content. The document, however, according to analysts and Democrats, overlooked myriad crux concerns that symbolize the ongoing disputes that have stagnated the process of writing a new post-Hosni Mubarak constitution, such as checks and balances and details about the military, its concerns and strategy.

Those happy with the draft and those disturbed by it are at loggerheads over the direction the finalized version should take.

“It’s to alleviate the pressure,” Gamal Gad Nassar, a constitutional law expert and a member of the assembly in Egypt told the Washington Post. According to him, the committee had not voted on the draft and the material was but a collection “of the many drafts and readings the assembly has discussed.”

Nathan Brown, George Washington University political science professor and well known author told the Washington Post, “This is obviously a work in progress…Will the cabinet have no oversight responsibilities over parliament? There’s a lot of ambiguity in there.”

The new draft has left intact Article 2, which stipulates that Islam is the religion of the state and that Sharia law is the principal source of legislation. It also includes a new article that limits gender equality to the extent that it interferes with “the rulings of the Islamic Sharia”.  Another article that was omitted from Wednesday’s draft gives to the Islamic authority unprecedented powers of legislation.

Mohamed el-Beltagi, an assembly member from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party said the draft marks the launch of the assembly’s “Know your constitution” campaign.

“The proposal has echoes of Egypt's 1971 constitution” wrote an LATimes reporter.

Article 36 stipulates that "the state shall take all measures to establish the equality of women and men in the areas of political, cultural, economic, and social life, as well as all other areas, insofar as this does not conflict with the rulings of Islamic sharia."

"We are very proud of this constitution. It represents all Egyptians, even the Coptic [Christian] community…The media creates suspense for no reason.... We were very fair in creating this constitutional draft: We asked for suggestions from all Egyptians, including the most simple citizens." Abdelfattah Hosseiny, an Islamist judge and committee member told the LATimes.

Human Rights Watch is among the liberal groups to boycott the new draft. Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate released a statement knocking "the absence of a basic understanding of things that concern the Egyptian citizen, such as basic freedom, economic and social rights."