CAIRO, EGYPT – Bloody clashes erupted in Cairo on Sunday Oct. 6 between supporters of the military and followers of ousted elected president Mohamed Morsi as the latter protested against the July military coup that deposed their leader. But as clashes occurred on the streets, a clash of ideologies has been occurring on the country’s 50-member committee as it amends Egypt’s constitution.
Sunday’s death toll reached 50 and at least 286 people were injured, according to Dr. Ahmed Ansari, chairman of the ambulance. The Interior Ministry reported arresting 423 protesters supporting the ousted president. This is the highest death toll here since Aug. 14, when the military and police smashed two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo, and hundreds were killed.
“The current crisis is political, not constitutional, and the solution would have to be political as well.” — Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Egypt stands at a critical stage in drafting a consensual constitution that could satisfy the needs of both civil and Islamic groups along with being approved by the military forces.
Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told IPS that because of the unresolved political crisis and the deep polarisation of society, “any political and social environment is significantly unsuitable for the making of a constitution through a democratic, inclusive and representative process.”
He pointed out that ironically, “we’re seeing more similarities than differences between the Brotherhood-led constitutional drafting process and the current one.”
On Jul. 8, five days after the overthrow of Morsi, interim President Adly Mansour issued a decree to form the 50-member committee and tasked it with writing a final draft of Egypt’s amended constitution.
The constitution was first drafted by a committee under Morsi’s government, which mainly consisted of Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic movements.
But louder voices from within the 50-member committee, which excludes the Muslim Bother’s party, have started demanding the drafting of a new constitution.
The only Salafi party on the committee, Al-Nour, is likely to defend the Islamic-flavoured articles in the suspended constitution, especially clauses that protect the Islamic identity of the state.
“What the Islamist-majority constituent assembly sought to do last year was to preserve all existing privileges of the military, while giving some concessions to conservative Islamists and undermining the supreme constitutional court, which had shown hostility to Brotherhood rule,” Bahgat said.
In the current constitution, army representatives have pushed for the approval of an article where the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will be the body responsible for appointing the Defence Minister, provided that this does not affect the powers of the president.
Bahgat said the current process was as exclusionary as last year’s one, “and even more lacking [in] democratic credentials because the current committee was appointed by a president who was in turn appointed by the defence minister.”
“We’re seeing the same dynamic this time where everyone expects the military to get everything they want, while the judiciary will get preferential treatment and most Islamist provisions [will] be undone.”
Bahgat said that the new constitution will not last longer than the 2012 one as Egypt could not have a permanent constitution through a process that excludes the 20 percent of the population who support the ousted president.
“The current crisis is political, not constitutional, and the solution would have to be political as well,” he added.
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