Egypt draft constitution deflates hopes for change
Egypt’s new constitution is still in the drafting stage but has already disappointed rights groups and activists who had hoped it would curb the military’s wide-ranging powers and privileges.
They have particularly objected to a provision which would allow military trials for civilians accused of “harming” the armed forces, which they fear could be interpreted expansively to target protesters, journalists and dissidents.
The passing of the revised constitution through a referendum is the first milestone of a road map to elected rule offered by Egypt’s military-installed authorities, who took office after the ouster of president Mursi on July 3.
The army toppled Mursi after millions of Egyptians called for his resignation, citing among their chief grievances a 2012 constitutional decree that gave Egypt’s first democratically elected leader extraordinary powers, which he later rescinded.
Under Mursi, a new constitution was hastily drafted by a 100-member panel dominated by militants and boycotted by liberals, and was approved in a December 2012 popular referendum by a more than 60 percent margin.
The military-installed authorities quickly suspended the constitution after his overthrow and appointed a 50-member panel to draft a new one.
The panel includes just two members and no one from Mursi’s Brotherhood movement, which has been the target of a sweeping crackdown in recent months that has seen hundreds of protesters killed by security forces.
“Where has the revolution gone? It has not (been) transferred into the document,” Joerg Fedtke, professor at Tulane University Law School in the US city of New Orleans, said.
The panel only includes two representatives from the security forces, but the committee has heard from members of the armed forces who strongly advocated retaining provisions favouring the military.
Egypt’s military, and particularly its top general Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, has seen its popularity soar in the wake of Mursi’s ouster, and the crackdown on militants has been allowed to proceed in part because of a spike in nationalist sentiment.