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Revolution on the Precipice

This coming Saturday March 19 represents a major test of the Revolution’s resolve in Egypt to sustain itself and its goals.  This is the day when a referendum has been scheduled on proposed amendments to the constitution, which were submitted by a team three weeks ago, after crafting them within ten days.  Despite the promise of at least a full month for consideration by the public, there seems to be a sense of urgency by the governing body to rush these through, propped up by a constitution that was abolished when Mubarak was overthrown.

That urgency, which might be better described as a last act of desperation, doesn’t seem to have settled well in those whose stomachs already have had their fill of shenanigans.  The Revolution, with a great resounding NO seems to have rejected them out of hand.

Aside from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which seems in a hurry to rush these amendments through, the only other support for the changes  now appear to come from the Muslim Brotherhood, whose organizational strength and ability to mobilize votes give them a decided advantage in having a referendum now.  The three major candidates who have indicated that they would run for the office of President, including Nobel laureate and former head of the U.N. nuclear agency Mohamed ElBaradei and secretary-general of the Arab League Amr Moussa,  all oppose the amendments too. Other opponents include the Wafd Party, the Youth of the Revolution Coalition which came into being after the anti- governments protests, the Tagammu and Al-Ghad parties, and the April 6 Youth Movement.

The actual proposed changes themselves in their formal dress as constitutional amendments have not been made public as we are now only two days away from the referendum, and appear to provide only window dressing on a constitution that is considered a relic of the Mubarak era.  The very idea of building anything on the pillars of the Mubarak legacy which gave him unlimited powers, even if they might now be restricted to two four year terms rather than six with unlimited re-elections,  is unthinkable not only to the April 6th Movement, the organization largely responsible for coordinating the uprising,  but to virtually every other opposition party and political organization that has been recognized in the current circus.

April 6 recently provided United Progressives with a statement outlining their reasons for opposing the amendments:

“April 6 Movement declares its final clear opinion by participating in the referendum on the constitutional amendments, but with the assertion that this participation comes with a full rejection of these amendments.”

The amendments, the organization states, simply “bring life to the flawed constitution of 1971, which lost its legitimacy through the great revolution of January 25.” April 6 joins the others opposed to the amendments in demanding that an entirely new constitution be written. The currrent proposal would permit the parliament to create an entirely new constitution, but they may do so at their option and are not required to under the new rules, meaning that it may never actually happen.

“It becomes more serious, “April 6 notes, ” when we read carefully the text of the constitutional amendment that talks about the fact that the President and the Parliament after the elections, have to form a constituent organization for the formulation of a new Egyptian constitution, and there is a text that says: (the President (with the approval of the Council of Ministers) and Parliament has the right to form a constituent organization if they agreed to do that and it is not a must)!

“That means, we – in the case of approval of these amendments – may actually have an honest election for president and parliament… But they remain behind the same powers without changing the Constitution with the defective articles still in place, creating reasons to delay (the idea) of establishing a new constitution for years and years.”

“There are also a lot of suspicious points on the other core texts of the proposed amendments, where there was an amendment to Article 77 of the 1971 Constitution which has lost the legitimacy, which specifies that the presidential term is 4 years, renewable only once.”

Another major bone of contention is the amendment related to Article 175, affecting more than 5 million Egyptians, “which carries a blatant discriminatory content against the Egyptians with dual nationalities or who are married to foreign women.  They have no right to run for the presidency, despite the fact that the Egyptian laws  considered them citizens with full rights of citizenship, without detraction.”

“There is no legitimacy except for the Revolution,” April 6th Movement declares.  “We will not accept an abolished constitution. We want a real democratic constitution which guarantees the freedoms of its citizens, a constitution that separates the powers and establishes the state of citizenship.

“The solution now is the declaration of a provisional constitution for all of this.

“April 6 Youth Movement calls all the Egyptian people to participate in the referendum and vote with “NO” to these inadequate and altered amendments, and confirm that we ask the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to work on forming a presidential council and a committee co-founders to draft a new constitution for the country suitable for the legitimacy of revolution.”

April 6 Youth Movement
Egyptian Resistance Movement

This article has also been published by United Progressives  http://www.unitedprogressives.org and The April 6 Youth Movement http://6april.org/english/modules/news/index.php?storytopic=1

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About Paul Barrow

Director of Policy and Communications, United Progressives