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Still Undecided?

With only hours to go before poll stations close, here’s what people are saying about the charter’s key issues.
By Ahmed Mansour

 

 

On Presidential and Military Powers

“In the 2012 constitution, there were many rights given to the President that would allow him to monopolize and abuse his authorities, but in my opinion in the 2013 constitution they were minimized. … There is no constitution in the whole world that would give the right to an organization to be above the government and unfortunately our constitution does. The text surely does give the upper hand to the military.”

Tharwat Badawi, Constitutional Expert and Professor of Law at Cairo University

 

“I do believe that the presidential powers are limited, and that in a way is good and in others is not. A president needs to feel safe in his position – especially after what happened to Mohamed Morsi – so that he would be able to give his 100% and take risks without being judged. The military has no right to prosecute civilians, and this is probably the reason why I am going to vote “no” in the referendum. There is no way that this article would be useful to the public, even after the modifications that were applied to it. We cannot give the chance to any organization to abuse power. This article is capable of destroying the whole concept of democracy in Egypt. The 2013 constitution gives more authorities to the military than any other.”

Samira Ibrahim, Founder of E’raafiHkooqeq Awareness Movement

 

“The constitution enshrines autonomy for the military, which had already been granted a considerable measure of autonomy by the now-suspended 2012 constitution. In effect, it is no longer treated as part of the executive branch of government but rather a branch unto itself.

The most significant change is the requirement that the military approve the defense minister for the next two presidential terms (article 234).

Provoking great controversy in Egypt is the continued, broad jurisdiction of military courts over civilians. In the 1971 constitution (in force until 2011), this matter was left to legislation; the 2012 constitution took a similar approach. The new draft does the same, though it works to restrict this jurisdiction to specific kinds of cases (article 204). The language is so broad, however, that the military courts are likely to have jurisdiction whenever they wish, such as in any area military officials declare a “military zone.”

Nathan J. Brown, Michele Dunne, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

 

On Minority Rights and Social Justice

“There are … possible winners, though it remains to be seen to what extent enhanced rights will be supported by future legislation and court rulings. Women gained much clearer and less qualified language on equality of the sexes (article 11) than in either the 2012 or the 1971 constitution. The draft document recognizes Nubians for the first time. Christians retained the provisions from 2012 that gave them a more explicit constitutional right to their own personal status law (article 3, though this right was long established in Egyptian law and practice). And they also won a new promise that the parliament will write a law on church restoration that will protect the freedom to practice religious rites (article 235).”

Nathan J. Brown, Michele Dunne, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

 

“The new draft contains significantly more detail on socio-economic rights, including health and education. While the 1971 constitution was silent on health, the 2012 constitution clearly indicated that all citizens were entitled to health care, and that treatment should be free for indigents (article 62). The 2013 draft goes much further, obligating the state to ensure that health facilities are distributed geographically across the country, and even indicating that the state must allocate no less than 3% of GDP to health in its annual budget (article 18). The right to free education was obligatory and primary education was mandatory under the 1971 constitution (article 18). Under the 2012 constitution, in recognition of the terrible state of public education in the country, the drafters indicated that “every citizen has the right to high quality education”, and also provided that the state must allocate a “sufficient percentage of the national revenue to technical education”, without indicating what that sufficient percentage should be (article 58). The 2013 draft provides even more detail, explaining that the purpose of public education is to “build the Egyptian character, maintain national identity, plant the roots of scientific learning […] of tolerance and non-discrimination”. The draft also clearly indicates that no less than 4% of GDP should be allocated to education, and also indicates that the state should “gradually” increase that until it reaches “global rates” (article 18).

Zaid Al-Ali, Senior Adviser on Constitution Building for International IDEA, based in Cairo

 

“The new constitution offers better human rights protections than the 2012 version forced through by the then president, Morsi. Yet it also continues a pattern of leaving much up to the vagaries of implementing legislation. And that legislation may be written―and implemented―in an atmosphere of government and public indifference, even hostility, to human rights concerns.”

Nathan J. Brown, Michele Dunne, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

 

“All I can see regarding social justice in the 2013 constitution is text with no assurance. They didn’t limit the rights of businessmen who are monopolizing a certain business, and they didn’t give actual rights to small business owners. They didn’t assure shelter and food for those who are not capable. Simply no change will be forced regarding those aspects when it comes to the Social Justice articles.”

Tharwat Badawi, Constitutional Expert and Professor of Law at Cairo University

 

“This is a game that the founders of the constitution do not understand. What is the point of raising the minimum wage, when all the prices are also going up? There should be a rule that makes the wage increase as long as the prices are increasing. In the 1971 constitution, it said that the wages are variable to the prices, and that is the way things should be done these days.”

Samira Ibrahim, Founder of E’raafiHkooqeq Awareness Movement

 

“There are new articles that are acceptable, but they are very broad and they do not specify what exactly their rights are. All that is mentioned are a few words that inform the public that the government is well aware of their existence, but no actual promises of change.”

Tharwat Badawi, Constitutional Expert and Professor of Law at Cairo University

 

“Just like the women’s rights article, they are also limited. They do not assure real rights to those who are less fortunate”

Samira Ibrahim, Founder of E’raafiHkooqeq Awareness Movement

 

“We cannot actually pinpoint any real differences between the three constitutions when it comes to women rights, but I do not really care about what the constitution has to say about this. What I know is that religions give rights to women better than any other manmade book.”

Tharwat Badawi, Constitutional Expert and Professor of Law at Cairo University

 

“It has always been that the governments take advantage of women – in the 2012 and 1971 constitutions — but to my surprise women’s rights in this constitution are limited to an unacceptable extent. I would go as far as saying that there are no rights assured to women in this constitution.”

Samira Ibrahim, Founder of E’raafiHkooqeq Awareness Movement

 

On Freedom of Religion

“It always has been in Egypt that everyone has the right to worship his God the way they want to, what the constitution did is that they enforced this by telling us everything that we already know and lived by. The difference between the three constitutions are not in the meaning of the articles, but just in the text, for that they all do have the same meaning in the end.”

Tharwat Badawi, Constitutional Expert and Professor of Law at Cairo University.

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