Egypt now has a draft constitution written by the Committee of the Fifty—the panel formed last July by interim President Adly Mansour to undertake the task. President Mansour tasked the committee to amend the 2012 Islamist constitution,
yet the endeavours of the panel produced what amounts to a thoroughly new constitution: a 247-article charter with a preamble which cites the basic foundations of the Egyptian State. It is to be hoped the charter would fulfil the aspirations of the various Egyptians who believe Egypt earned for herself the right to a new constitution when it waged the 30 June Revolution and overthrew the Islamist regime. A mere amendment of the ill-reputed 2012 Islamist constitution which was a major cause behind the wrathful rebellion of Egyptians against the Islamists was not enough, many believed; a brand new constitution was due.
I will not embark on an analysis or assessment of the individual articles of the constitution, and I hope that Egyptians do not drift into undertaking such an endeavour. It is with relief that I confidently say that the charter we today hold in our hands carries Egypt into an era of upholding rights, freedoms, equality, citizenship concepts, democracy and modernity. As such, it warrants our support and endorsement. The real challenge now and until it is time to vote on the draft is to preserve the spirit of national harmony among the majority of Egyptians in order to achieve the goals of the 30 June Revolution.
Any Egyptian, however, might very well find in the draft constitution ‘flaws’ that fall short of answering his or her full aspirations. We should realise that even if the draft does not measure up to the full expectations of each and every one of us, it should not be readily trashed or rejected. It is impossible to come up with a constitution tailored to fit every Egyptian. The pivotal fact is that we now have a draft which expresses our identity and hopes, and ensures that the legislation and laws which govern our community cannot bypass freedom, equality and modernity. I maintain that such a charter warrants our support and endorsement.
This is the challenge that awaits us as we prepare to vote on the draft constitution before this year wraps up. No matter how divergent our opinions, I am sure the positive values in the charter far outweigh any failures. The final draft expresses the panel’s persistence that the constitution should be inclusive of all Egyptians. In some instances the panel discussions turned into veritable squabbles, with representatives of each sector focused on their particular needs. Amid this tug of war, some appeared almost oblivious to the fact that the constitution is not a cake that may be divided among several, but is indivisible and should remain whole and complete for all Egyptians.
We should take care not to fall prey to pressure or media groups that trumpet the negatives and cry for rejecting the draft. We should not be lured into a quagmire of condemnation or distortion. The objective of these groups is to hinder the advancement of Egypt along its Roadmap to the future, and to keep up the political conflict, violence and security chaos that threaten the country’s stability and prosperity. The upcoming period will abound with forums, seminars and platforms that dissect and refute all the articles of the draft constitution, amplifying the divergent opinions and fragmenting the community. Then the national unity of the 30 June Revolution would be shattered and Egypt effectively polarised. When it is time for the referendum, the real challenge, Egypt would be all torn between supporter, opponent, and boycotter.
Let everyone who is keen on seeing Egypt land on the safe shore of a prosperous tomorrow realise that division can only serve the agendas of the [Islamist] terrorist, exclusionary group of which Egypt has ridded herself. This group will never give up an opportunity to make a comeback through the ballot box, a feat which can only be managed should the majority of Egyptians fail to show up at the polls. If the Islamists manage that, our revolution would be rendered pointless. By abandoning our national unity and refraining from balloting, we would be deserting Egypt and allowing her to be again hijacked by the Islamists.
I will not tire of warning of the evil fate that awaits us should we lose our national vision and foresight and allow marginal issues to blind us to the right path to the future. Because then we would have no one to blame but ourselves.
8 December 2013
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