Egypt's constitution confusion

The confusion over Egypt's transition continues. Salma Shukrallah reports in Ahram English:

Egypt’s Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mohamed Attia declared on Sunday that the presidential elections will be held only after a new constitution is drafted and approved.

While Attia’s statements clarified the confusion over what steps will follow the parliament’s formation, it has left many wondering to what degree such a decision is in harmony with the results of the constitutional referendum held on 19 March, which left many assuming presidential elections will be held before the constitution is finalised.

A member of the committee which drafted the amendments approved in March, Judge Tarek El-Beshry, has condemned the decision in several interviews, insisting that such a decision does not follow the sequence specified in the nine amendments that millions voted for last spring.

According to El-Beshry, who took part in the committee that was appointed by the ruling military council (SCAF) to amend the 1971 constitution, the presidential elections should take place before the new constitution is drafted.

SCAF continues to make it up as it goes along, and this presents constituent assembly with a dilemna: rush things along to draft and approve a new constitution in two months so you can have presidential elections in June as expected, or defer the presidential election until after. Not to mention that this matter is not really supposed to be up for SCAF to make the decision alone, and al-Beshri (who deserves to live out the rest of his days in infamy for his handling of the constitutional committee last March and his silence over the way the Constitutional Declaration was promulgated) does have a point in that it's not what was voted for in the referendum.

Read the rest of the piece for an explanation from prominent reformist judge Ahmed Mekky on why the referendum was intended to have elections for the president first, before the drafting of a new constitution. It's a good argument for bringing the presidential elections forward, and keeping SCAF out of the drafting of the new constitution.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.