Tahrir Crowds

Tahrir Crowds
Midan Tahrir, 1 Feb 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

New Egyptian Constitutional Amendments Vote Tomorrow

Will the Egyptian army walk the talk?  Will they live up to their promises?  That's the big question in so many of us who participated in or observed the recent revolution.

Tomorrow is the vote on the promised constitutional amendments.  (Link to an English version of the proposed amendments). It contains some positive changes, but still has some less democratic features.  For example, a presidential candidate must have the support of at least 30 members of parliament.  That seems to favor the status quo.  New smaller parties would not be able to meet that ceiling, but could still have a popular enough candidate that could win the vote.

Some provisions are predictable:  the president must be Egyptian, and both his parents must be Egyptian [no Barak Obama for Egypt!], but then Egypt's nationalism is deeply rooted.  More of a concern is can the president only be a "he"?  That's what the language would seem to imply, and there is no additional notation which allows for it to be a female candidate.

Also problematic is the Elections Commission appointed to oversee the electoral process, which seems designed to include primarily the oldest members of government.  The document specifies: "The committee is to be chaired by the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court and comprises the head of the Cairo Court of Appeal, the eldest Supreme Constitutional Court deputy, the eldest head of the Court of Cassation deputy and the eldest deputy of the State Council."  In contrast, it seems to me the Revolution was about getting the old men out of the business of running the government.

In short, it appears that the Supreme Military Council is not really eager for a democracy of the people.  That's hardly surprising.  They are the ruling class, and have been since Egypt's independence in 1956.  They hold a great deal of Egypt's wealth.  As Egypt's formerly state-owned businesses were privatized from the 1990s onward, guess who came to own many of them?

The 25 January Revolution has as its goal the end of the military state, and replacing it with a civilian-led democratic state.  Will the army implement this?  It seems unlikely, which is part of why the revolution continues, with its participants still organizing continuing pressure for the changes sought.

Still, I continue to enjoy my front row seat for this period of change.  One thing it clearly has changed is free speech.  The people have taken this right, and now everyone is speaking his or her mind, including the school children, my teacher friends inform me.  I suspect some schools may even institute student governments and begin leadership training to harness and positively channel their students' newly found voices.

1 comment:

  1. Kathy, thanks for this. Perfect timing! I was just thinking about spending part of my evening trying to find out more about the ref tomorrow. Nice summary :) ~Marion


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