In Translation: Nader Fergany on the Egyptian draft constitution

These days in Egypt, plans always seem to be overtaken by events. This week’s translated article from the Arabic media — made possibly by the wonderful translations service Industry Arabic — was selected before the current political crisis over President Mohammed Morsi’s decree erupted on Thursday evening. Then, aside from the conflict in Gaza, the biggest issue in Egypt was the withdrawal of secular forces from the Constituent Assembly and the debate over the draft constitution. I chose the article by Nader Fergany out of a torrent of articles on this issue for two reasons: first, Fergany was the lead author of the first Arab Human Development Report, which (for all the criticism it received) I think can be fairly described as one of the intellectual underpinnings of the movement against dictatorship in the last decade. Secondly, Fergany (while he is a secularist, leftist and rather irascible nationalist) eschews the two typical responses you tended to have in the media, where partisans either said the draft constitution is great or it was a disaster.

The draft constitution is better than expected, but…

Nader Fergany, al-Ahram, 18 November 2012

The corruption of political life for an entire people, including the oppression and pauperization of its vast majority, is an abominable crime that I believe needs to be dealt with as a crime against humanity deserving of the most severe punishment. It shall not be allowed to forgotten, nor shall its perpetrators be tried solely within the confines of the country in which they corrupted politics.

The authoritarian regime—against which the great popular revolution rose up at the end of January 2011—sold the Egyptian people the most despicable forms of the corruption of political life for many decades, leaving in its wake a deep heritage of oppression, poverty, and social injustice that accumulated until the people could bear it no longer. They rose up in hopes of securing the noble ends for which the demands of the revolution were drawn up: freedom, equitability, social justice, and human dignity. Unfortunately, the transitional period’s government was intent on acquitting those who were responsible for the corruption of political life before the revolution from having to face the punishments necessary for just retribution, which has contributed to post-revolution corruption in political life. This corruption has resulted in a state of confusion and legislative and political blunders as a result of the path the elections took before the constitution, which is reflected in the controversy and disputes around the Constituent Assembly and the draft of the constitution prepared by the assembly.

Read More