This is the first of a series of posts co-authored with Professor Mohamed Abdelaal (of Alexandria University) on the status of constitutional reform in Egypt. Massive protests are planned on June 30 to mark the first anniversary of President Mohamed Morsi’s inauguration and to express anger at the way in which the new Egyptian Constitution was drafted and at what the Constitution says.
Dissatisfaction over the 2012 Constitution can be traced back to the moment when a Constituent Assembly was elected by Parliament in summer 2012 to draft a new constitution after the 2011 Revolution. The Assembly, which was composed of 100 members, was heavily dominated by Islamists. 24 out of the 39 parliamentary seats were filled by Islamic parties and 5 of the independent seats were reserved for Al-Azhar Institute, a prominent Islamic institute in Egypt. Furthermore, many of the independent members were known sympathizers of the Islamic camp. Accordingly, the drafting process witnessed several boycotts from the liberal bloc and was seen by many political figures as illegitimate. In a subsequent ratification referendum, the Constitution was approved by only 63.8% with a turnout of only 33%, which was not a decisive endorsement. It was not only the suspected drafting process that made many Egyptians not to cheer the new constitution; however, it is also its content, which gives religious leaders a role in judging the validity of legislation, grants broad powers to the president without making him accountable for his misconduct, and puts the independence of the judiciary in jeopardy. We will have more to say about these provisions in our other posts.