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EGYPT: Human rights advocates want new constitution before elections


Human rights organizations have called on the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces to allow a new constitution ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for September and December, respectively.

“We ask SCAF to engage constructively with demands from revolutionary forces to ... give priority to the drafting of a new constitution for the country whose provisions will govern the institutions of a democratic regime,” a statement issued on Thursday and signed by 11 human rights groups read.

The military council dissolved Egypt’s lower and upper houses of parliament and suspended the constitution on Feb.13 -- two days after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down. A committee of lawmakers and judges quickly amended the existing constitution. On March 19, over the objections of youth acitivists and revolutionary leaders who were demanding a new constitution, Egyptians voted overwhelmingly in favor of the amendments.  

The amended articles called for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held this year and require that the new parliament and president form a committee to to write a new constitution within six months of electing the president. Human rights advocates, however, protested that a consitution should be written before a new govermnment is elected. 

“The insistence on putting the cart before the horse --that is electing a parliament based on the rules of the old regime’s constitution before preparing a constitution for the new order -- will allow parties that win elections to manage the drafting of the constitution with accordance to their own narrow interests,” said the human rights groups' statement.

The National Front for Change Youth and other youth coalitions have called for a million-man march in Tahrir Square on July 8 to demand a new constitution. The Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest and best organized opposition party, which is expected to pick up many seats in parliamentary elections, is against the youth protest.  

“Those calls are an attempt to pounce on the legitimacy of the people who voted in favor of holding elections before forming a constitution. We can’t put the whole society’s future on hold just because some political forces didn’t do their homework for the upcoming elections,” said Ahmed Abou Barak, a prominent Brotherhood member.

The Brotherhood boycotted Tahrir Square protests on May 27, when demonstrators called for speeding up democratic reforms and drafting a constitution ahead of elections.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Thousands of protesters marching in Tahrir Square on May 27. Credit: Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (4)

It sounds like democracy,but get it done now or lose it. The entrenche will not give power up .Remove power from the military,that is the whole middle problem.The military works for people not the dictators.Get it done now or lose the dream.The fat pigs will want a delay,as always.

This is the only line that mattered: "On March 19, over the objections of youth acitivists and revolutionary leaders who were demanding a new constitution, Egyptians voted overwhelmingly in favor of the amendments. "

In a national referendum, MILLIONS of people voted and disagreed with the ELEVEN "human rights groups" this article talks about.

Those groups had the same opportunity to convince the population before that referendum but failed. Now they are trying to undo the first act of democracy in the new Egypt. Claiming that the people don't know what's best for them, so ignore their vote, and let 11 groups decide.

It makes sense to write the constitution after the elections, because who would write it before? If it was written before the election, then the constitutional framers would be an APPOINTED group selected not by the voting population, but by the military council and whichever protesters could make the most noise. The referendum demanded that the constitution be written by ELECTED officials, who through popular vote are REPRESENTATIVE of the entire population. That sounds like democracy to me.

All involved in the elections process have the same time frame to get out their vote. Some groups are better prepared, but that comes through their own hard work over years, not because the election period is unfair. Those groups have worked in their communities for years. They showed up for the people when the people's vote didn't count, because they were working for the people not for votes. They earned the trust of the people, and now that trust is expected to translate into votes that matter. Perhaps that's the difference between being a community activist and being a human rights activist. Or maybe it's the difference between being active on a blog and being active in the community.

The wheels have already come off. Don't expect the car to stay on the rails.

Clearly needs to be done BEFORE the elections...once the powerful PRO-SHARIA Muslim Brotherhood gets a foothold on national power, it will definitely be a losing battle.


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