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.