For at least four months, Egypt’s legal framework will be the constitutional declaration issued by Interim President Adly Mansour on July 8.
The 33-article declaration has been designed to provide a basic constitutional backbone until a committee reviews the 2012 Constitution, makes amendments, and puts the amended document to referendum.
In Mansour’s reduced document, many of the controversial articles of the 2012 Constitution have been removed, alongside whole sections about how the legislative body will function and how independent authorities will be formed and function.
Some contentious articles remain, however, and as in the previous document these holdovers arguably represent the interests of certain institutions that are sponsoring the post-Morsi roadmap.
Contentious points removed
The article in the 2012 Constitution that gave Al-Azhar a consultative position on defining the principles of Sharia, which is the main source of legislation, has been removed from the 2013 Constitutional Declaration. The controversy around the article was largely because Al-Azhar is a non-elected body.
The passage giving the state the power to preserve the “genuine nature” of the Egyptian family and its moral values and to “safeguard ethics and morality” has also been removed from the constitutional declaration.
All contentious articles related to matters than can be delayed until the 2012 Constitution is reinstated have been removed, such as the maximum national wage, questions of land ownership and the details of the taxation system. Articles on the functioning and formation of courts and the establishment of independent authorities have likewise been removed for the interim period.
The exception to court-ordered arrests in cases of in flagrante delicto (being caught in the act) has also been stripped from the declaration.
References are no longer made to limiting freedom of expression through a prohibition on insulting prophets, a clause safeguarding the principles of state, society, and national security, or through imposing legal regulations on the establishment of media organizations.
The limitation on the number of trade unions to only one per profession has also been lifted.
Disputed articles remaining
Article 1 reproduces the controversial issue of stipulating Sharia as a main reference for legislation: it refers to jurisprudence and its fundamental basis as being laid out in Sunni schools of thought. This article is arguably representative of the interests of the Salafi Nour Party, which has been a partner in the roadmap design alongside the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
Article 7 reproduces a contentious aspect of the 2012 Constitution by limiting freedom of belief to Abrahamite religions. This stipulation was deemed by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights as the “worst in the history of Egyptian constitutions,” because there was no requirement that the state be responsible for safeguarding freedom of belief.
Article 8 provides a contentious exception to freedom of expression for the media in cases of emergencies or war. Censorship will be permitted when it comes to questions of national security. This approach has often been criticized by human rights advocates for being too broad and for not being accompanied by guarantees protecting freedom of expression.
Article 19 represents a persistent interest in keeping the military judiciary functioning despite calls from human rights advocates to abolish military trials. It broadly stipulates that this justice system pertains to cases related to the Armed Forces and its members, although does not reproduce the wording of the 2012 Constitution, which clearly stated the option of trying civilians in military courts in case of harm to the Armed Forces.
Article 22 keeps the authority to review the military budget outside the scope of parliament, although unlike the 2012 Constitution it does not specify how the National Defense Council is formed or the extent to which its voting mechanisms give privileges the military institution. The question has proved contentious in the past as there have been demands to open up the records of the military’s budget at the parliamentary level.
Article 24 extends the powers of the president to legislation, stipulating merely that he consult the cabinet, the head of which he appoints. For advocates of the separation of powers, this represents a concentration of authorities.
Article 25 gives a series of powers to the appointed cabinet, including one that should arguably be subject to parliamentary approval, namely seeking loans.