Military gets more power in Egypt Constitution, less Islam

Women and workers gain rights, religious parties outlawed

16 January, 21:53

    (by Luciana Borsatti) (ANSAmed) - ROME, JANUARY 16 - Egypt's new Constitution makes reference to the ''January 25-June 30 revolution'', seeing in the ousters of former presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi as two steps in a single revolutionary process. It also eliminates the articles seen as potentially paving the way for a Sunni theocracy and sanctions both new rights and the strengthening of the power wielded by the armed forces. The new charter thus marks a break with the past of the short-lived Islamist government, while simultaneously bolstering the role of the Army, which has given the country its president since the days of Nasser and is readying to continue doing so with the 'strong man' of the upcoming elections: General Abdel Fatah El-Sisi, who is expected to announce that he will be running in the next presidential race. These are some of the most note-worthy aspects of the new Constitution.

    Article 2 is mostly the same as it has been since it was introduced in 1971 by President Anwar al Sadat: ''Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic is its official language and the principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation.

    The controversial Article 219 has instead been done away with, which defined the ''principles of Sharia'' and was introduced by Islamist parties in the 2012 text. The preamble states that the Constitutional Court is to decide on the interpretation of these principles. The section of Article 4 of the previous text has also been eliminated, which stated that ''Al-Azhar's senior scholars are to be consulted in matters pertaining to Islamic law'', which even Al-Azhar authorities had not approved of. Article 11, on equality between men and women, was seen as a improvement on the 2012 text, as it obliges the state to ensure that there is no discrimination in politics and the world of work. It does not, however, set down a quota for women in Parliament. Article 13 tasks the state with protecting the rights of workers and improving their working conditions, while Article 17 guarantees pensions and social services to the most vulnerable and Article 18 healthcare for all.

    The Nasser-era regulation stipulating that 50% of MPs had to be from workers and farmers (never actually implemented) has been done away with, while the limit on a single trade union per profession remains. Article 74 restores the ban on setting up political parties on a religious basis - a regulation targeting the Muslim Brotherhood - as well as those discriminating on the basis of gender, origin or religion. The military's role is bolstered by Article 234, which foresees that the appointment of the Minister of Defense must be approved by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, though only for a transitional eight-year period. The highly contested right to subject civilians to military trials for crimes against the armed forces also stayed in - though it details what acts it refers to. On the issue of the presidency, a regulation has been inserted that calls for the removal of the president if he fails to obtain the confidence of two-thirds of Parliament (which now consists of a single house, after the abolition of the Shura Council). It also calls for the dissolution of the Parliament and new elections if the vote of confidence does not pass.

    (ANSAmed).

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