Democracy Hangs by a Thread
How good is a draft constitution that contains many positive articles, when a not insignificant element of the political landscape was excluded from the constitutional assembly and while the police state rages out on the streets?
This is the question that Egyptians must now ask themselves after the constitutional assembly voted on the 247 articles that will now go to a referendum.
Many of the articles look good on paper, with one important exception: The Egyptian military has ensured that its role in politics has been enshrined in the draft document. For the next eight years at least, the military will decide on who fills the post of defence minister.
Muslim Brotherhood shunned
The process through which the draft came about was even more problematic. Of all the political forces represented in the country, it was the movement that held power until the military putsch five months ago, the Muslim Brotherhood, that was completely excluded. With this constitution, Egyptian society was certainly not picked up from the point at which it now finds itself. It does not reflect any social consensus.
In a bid to push it through by hook or by crook, a police state has taken shape comparable with the one in place during the Mubarak era. A new restrictive right to demonstrate and right of assembly is doing the usual and has for some time now been applied not against the Muslim Brotherhood, but also against any dissent by secular Tahrir activists. And ironically by those who claim to have come to power through mass demonstrations against the Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi.
At present, no one in Egypt is really able to explain how on earth a referendum on the constitution, as well as presidential and parliamentary elections can be expected to take place in this sort of climate.
The timetable for a democratic transition has now been put down on paper, but the military and police are standing guard at the station and controlling the points, to ensure that the train does not travel against their will in a direction that deviates from the predetermined route.
© Qantara.de 2013
Translated from the German by Nina Coon
Editor: Lewis Gropp/Qantara.de