By Burc Kostem
According to Egyptian sources, details of the draft Egypt Constitution are slowly emerging with some controversial articles on the agenda. After a long debate over the nature of its political make up, the Constituent Assembly tasked with writing Egypt’s new constitution is near to finishing a first draft. Commentators expect this first draft to be released to the public after which it will be put to referendum sometime this year.
An administrative had previously dissolved the Assembly on a technicality, amid criticisms that the institution wasn’t representative enough. This lead to the creation of a new compromised Assembly on June 7 that afforded greater access to different political groups.
Should the constitution be adopted by the referendum, fresh elections to the main legislative body, the People’s Assembly will be held within 60 days. The courts have also dissolved the parliament due to unconstitutional practices in its election. With no parliament this yields what has been described as “unlimited power” to Morsy. Some fear that President Morsy will personally appoint new members to the Assembly should the Assembly fail to come to an agreement soon mounting pressure on the Assembly. These fears exist despite several assurances on the part of President Morsy.
One controversial article in the draft constitution announced by Mohey Eddin, a member of the Constituent Assembly, is with regards to the military budget. Eddin has announced that under the new constitution the military budget will not be discussed in parliament, as it is a matter of “national security”. While the final number of the budget will be available to the National Defense Committee made up of the president, cabinet ministers and army officials, the details of the budget will be hidden from the Parliament.
The military budget had proven to be an elusive topic both under Mubarak and in the post-Mubarak era under SCAF, with estimates of the military’s share in the economy ranging loosely between 15 to 40 percent. The announcement has been criticized by human rights group Arabic Network for Human Rights Information based in Cairo, pointing out that such information is available to both parliaments and people in an overwhelming majority of democracies.
Another popular item on the Assembly’s agenda is the legal status of Islam under the constitution. While certain Salafist political organizations such as the Al Nour party had voiced their support for greater involvement of Sharia law as a basis for the Egyptian legal system, this has met with little support from other parties in the Assembly. Morsy himself recently underlined this commitment by announcing that “Egypt is not a religious state” in a public speech to university students. Therefore any change to the current provision citing principles of Sharia law as a main source of legislation without giving them explicit legal authority, seems unlikely.
Eddin also leaked details of other important topics regarding emergency powers, the right to protest and military trials. These remain critical as 12 000 individuals in Egypt face military prosecution since the beginning of the post Mubarak era. This has met with reaction from several commentators from newspapers such as Al Ahram calling President Morsy to intervene in these trials. Morsy has already granted presidential pardons to over 600 prisoners convicted due to their involvement in the uprising. Therefore an article banning the trial of civilians in military courts as well as abolishing the infamous Emergency Powers of the Mubarak era could be critical points of contention in the new constitution.