Ottawa Citizen

Post-char­ter, Egyp­tian government sets pri­or­i­ties

Fo­cus shifts from con­flict in streets to devel­op­ment of state in­sti­tu­tions


CAIRO • Egypt’s government set leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties for par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day as it con­vened for the first time since a new con­sti­tu­tion was passed, ask­ing law­mak­ers to fo­cus on set­ting rules for up­com­ing elec­tions, reg­u­lat­ing the me­dia and fight­ing cor­rup­tion.

The of­fi­cial con­fir­ma­tion Tues­day that the Is­lamist­drafted con­sti­tu­tion passed in a ref­er­en­dum ush­ered in a new chap­ter in Egypt’s twoyear tran­si­tion from au­thor­i­tar­ian rule, likely to be char­ac­ter­ized more by le­gal bat­tles and less by street protests.

The dis­pute over the con­sti­tu­tion deeply po­lar­ized the coun­try, reignit­ing mass street protests that turned deadly at times.

“We have now moved from con­flict in the streets be­tween po­lit­i­cal forces and the regime to a new phase of le­gal dis­putes over leg­is­la­tion and con­trol of state in­sti­tu­tions,” said Nasser Amin, the head of the Cen­ter for the In­de­pen­dence of the Ju­di­ciary and Le­gal Pro­fes­sion. “This is the most crit­i­cal phase … and the bat­tle won’t be very clear to reg­u­lar peo­ple.”

The con­sti­tu­tion’s sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing Is­lamist Pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Morsi and his government, had ar­gued it would pave the way for more sta­bil­ity in Egypt and the build­ing up of state in­sti­tu­tions.

The largely sec­u­lar and lib­eral op­po­si­tion who op­posed the con­sti­tu­tion fear it en­shrines a prom­i­nent role for Is­lamic law, or Shariah, in gov­ern­ing the coun­try’s af­fairs and re­in­forces Is­lamists’ hold on power. They say it re­stricts free­doms and ig­nores the rights of women and mi­nori­ties.

The main op­po­si­tion group has ques­tioned the le­git­i­macy of the char­ter it­self, say­ing it was rushed through with­out na­tional con­sen­sus.

“Egypt con­sti­tu­tion (is) void as it con­flicts (with) cer­tain peremp­tory norms of in­ter­na­tional law,” such as free­dom of be­lief and ex­pres­sion, op­po­si­tion leader Mo­hamed ElBa­radei tweeted Wed­nes­day.

Un­der the new con­sti­tu­tion, the Is­lamist-dom­i­nated Shura Coun­cil, the tra­di­tion­ally tooth­less up­per house, was granted tem­po­rary leg­isla­tive pow­ers and be­gan its work a day af­ter the of­fi­cial re­sults of the ref­er­en­dum said the char­ter passed with nearly 64 per cent. It will leg­is­late un­til elec­tions for a new lower house are held within two months. Morsi ap­pointed 90 mem­bers to the coun­cil on the last day of the ref­er­en­dum on the con­sti­tu­tion, in a bid to make it more rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

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