A word on Egypt’s Constitutional Panel

The Muslim Brotherhood does not deserve to have a say in the drafting of Egypt’s constitution Photo: Associated Press

PARIS — February 19, 2011 – I have difficulty seeing why a member of the Muslim Brotherhood was included in the Constitutional Panel that was announced recently by the military government. No other political party is represented in that panel.

I can understand that the military government would want to pick a panel that represents the Egyptian population in its entirety; but precisely for that reason, it would be wrong to include a representative of any political party. At this early stage of political freedom, no one knows what Egypt’s political landscape will look like in the long run and even in the near future, and it would thus be unwise to pick and choose political parties to join in the process of constitution-drafting. That will only disappoint, even anger, large sections of the population and give a minority party a power that it does not yet deserve.

Senior members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Saad el-Katatni, right, Mohamed Morsi, centre, and Essam el-Erian hold a press conference on the latest situation in Egypt in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011. (Photo: Associated Press)

Senior members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Saad el-Katatni, right, Mohamed Morsi, centre, and Essam el-Erian hold a press conference on the latest situation in Egypt in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011. (Photo: Associated Press)

Everyone speaks of the Egyptian “people” but no one has any idea who the “people” are and of what parties, factions, and tendencies they are composed.

At this juncture, they display a deceptive unity. This is due more to Mubarak’s policies than anything else. Mubarak suppressed the appearance of political parties and factions. He drove all opposition into the arms of the Muslim Brotherhood, where they could be accused of extremism. The Egyptian people became a nameless mass.

But with political freedom things will inevitably change. Wait a while and you will begin to see the “people” in their true, multi-faceted form. Expect to see, above all, internal strife.

The Muslim Brotherhood is to be congratulated for having survived the last eighty years in the political wilderness and the last thirty under the boot of Mubarak, but that is no qualification to join a constitutional panel. The military government would have done much better to write the constitution itself with perhaps the advice of a non-political panel of experts. And instead of merely amending the constitution (it is only rewriting six of its articles), why not begin anew, redraft the whole thing, and submit it before a national referendum?

The masses cry out for change – in both form and substance. There are some cases when change must be cloaked under the mask of conservatism. Other cases require conservatism to be cloaked under the mask of change. The latter case applies in Egypt. It is the spirit of change that matters. The details can be sorted out later.

Benjamin Ra is a graduate student in International Affairs at Sciences Po Paris. American foreign policy is his main interest. Read more of Benjamin’s writing in A Word in the National Interest in the Communities at the Washington Times.


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Benjamin Ra

Benjamin Ra is a recent graduate of Sciences Po Paris. He writes mainly on foreign policy and is currently residing in South Korea. 

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