Islamist constitution spurs controversy in Egypt as protests grow
A nationwide referendum will be held within the next 30 days to vote on the draft document.
The Islamist-majority assembly had already been working on the new constitution for months before finally pushing it through in a mammoth 19-hour session, during which they voted on 230 articles individually. Of the 85 members that attended, there were only four women and no Christians.
In the run-up to the vote, Christian, liberal and secular members of the government body had been jumping ship from the 100-strong assembly in protest of what they perceive as the country’s Muslim leaders sequestering the new constitution.
"We will implement the work of this constitution to hold in high esteem God's law, which was only ink on paper before, and to protect freedoms that were not previously respected," said Muslim Brotherhood representative Essam el-Erian following the marathon assembly session.
Critics of the new legislation argue that some of the clauses will have an adverse effect on freedom of speech in Egypt. Additionally, opponents take issue with the fact that there is no article stipulating equality between men and women in the draft constitution.
"I am saddened to see this come out while Egypt is so divided," Egypt's top reform leader, Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei said, speaking on Al-Nahar TV. ElBaradei stressed that the document’s days were numbered and it would soon become “political folklore” destined for the “garbage bin of history.”
Perhaps the most significant political change to the constitution that the new document sets out is the capping of the amount of time a president can serve to a maximum of eight years, divided into two terms. President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted by public uprisings two years ago, held power for three decades.
The new constitution follows a week of protests, condemning President Morsi’s authoritarian new powers that effectively neutralize the judiciary. Morsi maintains these powers are only temporary and are a necessary "delicate surgery" to help Egypt along the road to political transition.
Angry protesters once again rallied in Cairo’s landmark Tahrir Square on Friday, after a new draft constitution was rushed through the Muslim-dominated lawmaker assembly. Tens of thousands of people remain in the square, journalist Bel Trew told RT from the Egyptian capital. Thousands of people have also protested in the second-largest city of Alexandria.
Over 200,000 demonstrators swarmed Tahrir Square during the week, clashing with police and chanting anti-government slogans, decrying Morsi as the “new Pharaoh” of Egypt. Officers fired teargas into the masses in an effort to control them.
Adrian Salbuchi, founder of the Argentinian Second Republic said that President Morsi will most probably take Egypt down a “much more radical Islamist path,” inciting more anger from the population and generating further instability.
Elaborating on western support of regime change in Egypt and the Arab world as a whole, he described the main goal as inciting instability.
“One of the objectives is to maintain social turmoil because there more social turmoil a country has on the inside, the weaker it is on the outside,” said Salbuchi, stressing that a weak Egypt was certainly “in the western powers objectives.”
Egyptian protesters clash with security forces on November 29, 2012 in Cairo's Tahrir Square, on the third day of protest over President Morsi's decision to grant himself sweeping powers until the new constitution is ratified in a referendum. (AFP Photo/Mahmoud Khaled)
'Muslim Brotherhood lock grip on power in Egypt'
Economic researcher and political analyst William Engdahl believes Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi is following the path of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini.
“I think we have a Sunni version of what happened when Ayatollah Khomeini replaced the Shah of Iran back in the late 1970s,” Engdahl told RT. “[Ayatollah Khomeini] talked about democracy and so forth, but co-opted the genuine movement you had on the streets in Iran, and created an Islamic dictatorship,” he said.
“You have a similar thing going on with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. I think the Egyptian people feel betrayed and double crossed,” Engdahl believes.
The author points out that Muslim Brotherhood dominates the Islamic organizations in the US having put a “moderate face” on. “But when they come into power, they put a lock grip on power, and essentially establish an Islamic dictatorship,” he said.
Engdahl believes that “some people in Washington actually want” the rise of the Masonic-like Muslim Brotherhood.
“The CIA has had dealings with the Brotherhood since they brought them out of Egypt into Saudi Arabia back in the early 1950s and before that, British intelligence. So they feel that they have a known entity in the Brotherhood and they might be in for a stark surprise,” he told RT.
The Arab Spring is entering a new “very dangerous” phase, he concluded.
The new constitution actually secures the military rule in Egypt, Ahmed Nageeb, an Egyptian Current Party member told RT.
“The problem is, it’s not the issues on Sharia that are mostly controversial, but the status of the military within the draft of the new constitution. It grants them a lot of power, more than what they’ve had before, most of which is civilians being trialed in military courts,” Nageeb said.
Despite people’s calls to put an end to military rule, the status of demigod remains stuck with the military on Egypt’s political scene, Nageeb told RT.