Egypt’s roadmap to crisis (Part 2)

There are a number of fears that surround Egypt’s transitional roadmap. The most significant is that the intention behind delaying the presidential elections is to pave the way for Defense Minister Colonel General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to run for president. Despite the Armed Forces’ denials, some continue to suspect that this is the case.

There is no doubt that Sisi enjoys wide popularity, evident in the mass marches that supported his call to grant him the green light to confront Islamists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet, there are other more realistic explanations for why the government is stalling.

Sisi realizes that there is no way forward in this transition without reaching some kind of arrangement with the Muslim Brotherhood. It is also clear that this will not be possible with the current Brotherhood leadership, which opts for suicidal face-offs with the state and completely disregards the fact that millions of protesters took to the streets against the Brotherhood presidency. The political process will therefore continue to be stalled until there is a new Brotherhood leadership that accepts the changing reality and is willing to negotiate accordingly.

The second fear that surrounds the roadmap relates to claims that the coming parliament will be elected through the single-winner system that prevailed before the January 25 revolution. This system, as opposed to the proportional list representation, leads to the formation of a weak parliament, and as such overly empowers the president, paving the way for autocratic rule.

These fears remain mostly speculative, but there exists a necessity to revise the roadmap nonetheless. We should not succumb to the popular idea that being rigid about the roadmap — despite its shortcomings — is a reflection of the strength of the transitional government. This line of reasoning is exactly why the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces failed in managing the first transition following the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.

To avoid another political debacle, certain aspects of the roadmap must be urgently revised. The first thing would be to decide, and formally announce, that the constitution that is currently being drafted is a temporary one.

The draft should also include an article stating that a committee, elected through a representative list system, shall draft a permanent constitution within a period of four years. The composition of the committee should ensure the representation of all segments of Egyptian society, without exception. The drafting period should also give ample time for discussion and public debate on the articles of the constitution. 

This is the only guarantee for having a long-lasting constitution that respects the political will of the people, who are now more politicized than ever and more willing to take risks for their rights.

In addition to including an article that states the temporary nature of the constitution currently being drafted, another one should follow stating that the presidential elections shall be held within a period of three months. Once a new president is elected, the presidency should sponsor a national dialogue that would put the country on a proper political track that ensures a democratic handover of power. Furthermore, the law governing the parliamentary and municipal elections should be revised, which is something that has not seriously taken place for the past two and a half years. And of course, the role of the military and military-civilian relationships should be subject to serious discussion.

In short, it is impossible to draft a permanent constitution in the midst of the current political tension, in the absence of clear rules accepted by the various factions, and in a time-span that leaves no room for public debates and discussions.

The reason why our constitution continues to falter is that the winning faction perceives it as political booty. We have learned this the hard way through our political experimentation since the 25 January revolution, and I see no point in continuing to commit the same mistakes.

This article is published in coordination with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

Mohamed Naeem 

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