Egypt’s bumpy road to democracy

 Afterwards Mohamed Mursi was elected president in June this year by a convincing margin, and his supporters cheered in the Tahir Square.

This time it is the opposition who gather in the Tahir Square: non-Islamist groups, liberal parties and democracy- and human rights organizations. Friday 30th November nearly 30 different organizations and parties will gather in the famous square to protest. They fear that the Arab spring has only given them a new dictator. They  want to protest strongly against the new, extended powers President Mohamed Mursi has given himself.
– Mursi has appointed himself  as Egypt’s new Pharaoh, claims former Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei.

Oslo Center recently received a delegation of parliamentarians from Egypt, representing different parties. They wanted to make themselves familiar with Norwegian democratic experiences and practises. During the meeting we received an interesting update on the political situation in the country.

The new Constitution

The important effort to work out a new constitution appears deadlocked. The first constitutional draft was announced in mid-October. The proposal was met with strong criticism from radical Salafists as well as from non-Muslim parties, human rights organizations and liberal groups. Salafists want a stronger connection to sharia as the basis for the new constitution, while the non-Muslim groups criticized the draft constitution to be ambiguous and sometimes containing contradictory language regarding human rights, freedom of expression and minority rights. Not least, the lack of formulations that ensure women’s equality and rights is of concern. It might be argued that a constitutional draft that is being criticized from both the Muslim and non-Muslim side, emerges as a possible compromise between different views. This is still far too easy for the description of the differences.

The Constitutional Commission is dominated by the election winner – the Muslim Brotherhood. It does not make the situation better for the non-Islamist officials and representatives of the moderate parties and human rights groups having withdrawn from the work of the commission in protest. The road to a referendum on the draft constitution is thus paved both with concerns and challenges.

Initially the plan was to publish a final draft in December with subsequent referendum in January 2013. Now there are indications that such a referendum would not take place until March.

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