21
Feb

By Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, Master in International Relations Candidate at IE*

After 18 days of popular protests, the Mubarak era came to an end last week, captivating the attention of the International Community while opening a new chapter in Egypt’s history. However, the democratization process is far from over: in fact, it has only just begun. In that sense, analyzing Egypt’s Constitutional Reform is fundamental to understand the short-term future of the country.

 Article 82 is very relevant to analyze the transition of power after Mubarak’s goodbye. In article 82, the Constitution states that, “should the President be unable to perform his duties due to any outstanding circumstances, his duties will be performed by the vice-president (…). The person performing these duties may not request constitutional amendments, dissolve parliament or dismiss the cabinet”. Therefore, just like Mubarak’s resignation was the best way to start the transitional process, his decision also helps the Constitutional reform process. After all, under this Article, Mubarak could have stayed in power, simply calling for a temporary shift in authority which would have had no powers over the Constitution and could have been over-turned at any time.

 Also, Article 76 will be relevant for the organization of free and fair elections. The article provides the grounds for nominating a presidential candidate. In order to incorporate all elements of the political spectrum, changes have to be made in this particular point. Currently, the requirements to run a presidential candidacy are so strict that only a few parties could actually pursue it. Given the fact that a presidential candidacy is linked with legislative election results, we cannot forget about the latest electoral process, which were obviously fraudulent. Such contest, which took place last year, saw the ruling party claim 81% of Assembly seats, followed by a ridiculous 1,1% awarded to the New Wafd Party (Hizb al-Wafd-al-Jadid) or the 0,9% given to the Progressive National Unionist Party (Hizb al Tagammo’ al Watani al Taqadommi al Wahdwawi). Also, the Muslim Brotherhood’s result was obviously fixed: it went from 88 to 1 single seat. Therefore, to ensure that the upcoming elections are held properly, the conditions laid out in Article 76 would certainly have to be modified. Otherwise, the representative component of democracy will remain out of the picture. In this sense, Article 88 lays out the rules for the supervision of elections. As general fraud was the case in earlier stages, a significant reform will be necessary in order to improve the rules of the game and make elections truly fair and free.

 Finally, Article 77 establishes six year-long presidential terms, something the opposition forces expect to change in the upcoming revision of the Constitution. Obviously, limiting those periods to five or four years would seem more appropriate. Additionally, term limits could also be considered: after all, Egypt has had only three presidents in the last fifty years.

 In the long term, many more changes will also be necessary in several other areas. Perhaps, a new Constitution may be the answer once the transitional process is finished, as some opposition leaders have argued. In any case, reform should also cover issues like the protection of individual freedoms and liberties or the application of martial law will be fundamental for the long-term.

 Also, after President Sadat’s reforms, a certain ideological mandate can be felt in many different articles, mainly those concerning economic issues. Besides, the 1980 amendments, which tied Shari’a law to the country’s legal system, may have to be revised, since this aspect obviously means a departure from earlier Egyptian constitutions. Finally, religious freedoms will certainly be relevant in this reform process. These are the basic Constitutional components that can “make it or break it” for Egypt.

 The military power will have to guarantee these changes, yet it is hard to determine if they will live up to the expectations. After all, as Shadi Hamid from the Brookings Institution has said recently, the Egyptian army does “bear some responsibility for the past decades of repression”. The military has benefited from very profitable enterprises over the years, and like every privileged group, it is not likely to support very profound changes in all areas that may confront its own interests.

 In any case, a proper constitutional reform will be necessary to address the new reality and to guide both the transitional process and the future of the country. Building strong democratic institutions will be fundamental to avoid radicalization and promote freedom and prosperity. And, of course, to the extent that Egypt is successful in this task, other countries in the region will ultimately follow.

*Diego Sánchez de la Cruz holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Universidad Antonio de Nebrija plus a Postgraduate course on Political Communication from Universidad Pontificia Comillas/ICADE. Diego was an international exchange student in the University of San Diego, in California (USA), and completed a Seminar on Political Communication from George Washington University. Over the last years, he has collaborated with Public Affairs firms like Llorente & Cuenca or media outlets like El Correo Gallego.

Comments

[...] febrero 21st, 2011 § Dejar un comentario Hace algunos días anuncié que próximamente comenzaría a escribir para el Instituto de Empresa dentro de su portal dedicado a las Relaciones Internacionales. Hoy mismo estreno esta colaboración con una pieza dedicada a la situación en Egipto y los futuros pasos hacia la reforma constitucional. El enlace al artículo está disponible haciendo click aquí: [...]

[...] febrero 21st, 2011 § Dejar un comentario Hace algunos días anuncié que próximamente comenzaría a escribir para el Instituto de Empresa dentro de su portal dedicado a las Relaciones Internacionales. Hoy mismo estreno esta colaboración con una pieza dedicada a la situación en Egipto y los futuros pasos hacia la reforma constitucional. El enlace al artículo está disponible haciendo click aquí: [...]

Lucía February 21, 2011 - 4:03 pm

Very good analysis! I wonder how this will play out, specially with the army playing a role in the transitional process, but anyway, I think it is important to stress the importance of “reform” and not “revolution” as means to embetter Egypt’s situation. A road map is necessary, but things cannot be rushed and constitutionalism is a fundamental element of the process!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Diego de la Cruz, Diego de la Cruz. Diego de la Cruz said: RT | Constitutional Reform in Egypt: the Next Steps | International Relations Blog http://bit.ly/hD5qSK -vía @diegodelacruz #Egypt #Libya [...]

Catalina February 22, 2011 - 1:37 pm

Great approach to what has happened in Egypt and now in the rest of the northern African and Middle East countries. As you say, it’s important to be patient and change this regimes from the inside, starting for the construction of real and fair democratic laws and states, which will take some time but will benefit everybody.

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