Watch Video: Crafting the Constitution
Faculty experts dissect Egypt's constitution at the Behind the Headlines media series
"Trying to draft a constitution that expresses the different trends in society is unrealistic from a legal point of view and may hamper the process," said Amr Shalakany, associate professor of law. "It would be relatively easy to gain consensus on the articles regarding rights and freedoms, but there will be much debate on articles that deal with the distribution of power. This is the case with most countries that have gone through revolutions."
Shalakany spoke as part of AUC’s third Behind the Headlines media roundtable series, which provides expert faculty analysis on current topics of interest.
The discussion, titled “Crafting the Constitution: A Path Beyond the
Crisis,” tackled the controversy surrounding the formation of the
Constituent Assembly commissioned to draft the Egyptian constitution. In
addition to Shalakany, faculty panelists included Mustapha Al Sayyid and Manar Al Shorbagy of the political science department. The roundtable was attended by several journalists and was moderated by AUC alumnus Khaled Ezz El Arab, senior correspondent for BBC Arabic.
“In all countries that have gone through revolutions, new
constitutions include articles that deal with general rights and
freedoms, but these have to be translated into laws," said
Shalakany. "The controversy will extend beyond writing the constitution,
and it is the government’s responsibility to put into effect the
articles dealing with citizens’ rights.”
Faculty panelists argued that the
process of forming the Constituent Assembly did not ensure equal
representation for different political, social and religious groups
including Copts, liberals, women, workers’ unions and the youth who
instigated the revolution.
“Since the constitution sets the general framework of the government, regulates public freedoms and affects the lives of citizens, it should be formulated in a consensual manner that takes into account the interests of different groups,” explained Al Sayyid, who recently withdrew from his membership in the Constituent Assembly. He noted that scholars of constitutional law, who would be fully competent in drafting a new constitution for the country, were excluded from the Constituent Assembly,
adding that the Freedom and Justice party did not allow diverse groups
to choose their own committee representatives. “They [Freedom and
Justice Party members] chose their own deputy head to be the Coptic
figure representing Christians. This way, the Constituent Assembly is
dominated by one ideological path.”
For El Shorbagy, the issue of the founding committee extends beyond monopolization by Islamists. “The problem in talking about the right of the parliamentary majority is that it makes it seem as if the battle is over the identity of the state,” she said. “Defending shariah is not meant to be part of the conflict. The dispute now is over the nature of the political system.”
To watch the roundtable discussion in Arabic, click here.
Photo caption: Shalakany, Ezz El Arab, Al Sayyid and Al Shorbagy