A Better Egyptian Constitution

With the violence that broke out in front of the presidential palace in Egypt yesterday, one can no longer describe the constitutional draft produced under the Mohamed Morsi government, as just “flawed.” In process, the draft is abysmal. In context, it revises history. In content, it is silent, vague, and problematic. In consequence, it is bloody. It isn’t just that Egypt can do better. Ratifying this constitution would reward, and deepen, polarization — and the goals of the January 25 revolution would be that much further away from being achieved.

The most obvious problems with the constitutional draft are procedural. The process was supposed to deliver a representative constituent assembly, which would produce a consensus-based document that the overwhelming majority of Egyptians would sign up to, and feel invested in. The first assembly was dismissed in April, after the supreme administrative court pointed out members of parliament could not elect themselves onto the assembly, and that the assembly involved too few women, young people, and representatives of minority groups.

Most hoped that the next assembly would be more representative. It was, initially, but it was still overwhelming Islamist, and still included members of parliament. With the dismissal of parliament shortly thereafter, President Morsi had the legislative ability to reappoint a new assembly altogether, which he could have done in conjunction with other political forces, ensuring a popular consensus. Instead, the president protected the Islamist-dominated assembly for months despite widespread criticism and the resignations of the majority of non-Islamist political forces.

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