Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bahaá ad Din Hassan on constitutional amendments

The February issue of the Arab Reform Bulletin is here, the most interesting piece this time is written by Egyptian human rights activist, Bahaá ad Din Hassan on the propossed 34 constitutional ammendmends, who was passed through both houses(Majlis ash Shaáb and Shura) in principal for the first time earlier this year, and most likely will pass a second time in detail before Shura elections, expected in April. Then it will be brought before the Egyptian people in a referendum, packaged as a ¨signed, sealed, delivered deal¨ that will bring the Egyptian people to the treshold of paradise lost, this ¨major¨ change in the constitution(the largest since at least 1980, and perhaps even since the permanent constitution in 1971), is portrayed as laying the foundation for the begining of an era with unprecedented democratic opportunities for the Egyptian citizens.

Bahaá ad Din Hassan, unwraps the package, disect and scrutinize it , and in the process shows us how the tiny window of the limited political opening that began on the 26 of February 2005, with President Mubaraks promise to have multi-candidate elections for the Presidency, the tiny window that has been closing for some time now, and quite the contrary to the promises of the government and praise of the semi-official press, this is in fact, not the beginning of an era , but the end of the charade. This is when the window is shut, and bolted.

Here is a sample:

lthough some of the new proposed constitutional amendments are meaningless, several are causing particular concern among civil society organizations. Amendment of Article 88, for example, would curtail judicial supervision of general elections, which in 2005 exposed fraud and lack of transparency in the electoral process. This will mean a return to regime control of election results. Other amendments include further interference with judicial independence via the creation of a new supervisory body headed by the President.

The proposed amendments would also weaken constitutional guarantees of human rights in order to pave the way for lifting the State of Emergency in favor of a counter-terrorism law. Such changes are likely to grant security forces unlimited authority to detain persons, raid residences, and monitor postal and telephone communications without court permission. A special judicial regime might be created to grant the necessary authorization and provide political cover for the security apparatus. And reimposition of the State of Emergency will remain a possibility even when there is a new counter-terrorism law.

Regarding political life, by prohibiting religious parties the amendments appear to foreclose any hope of coming to terms with political Islam. Meanwhile, the creation of new non-religious parties continues to be blocked and existing parties are beset by administrative, legislative, and security restrictions


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