As Egypt goes to the polls to begin its long process of electing a parliament, I recommend taking a look at an analysis produced by International IDEA of the “Fundamental Principles” document released earlier this month. The document has been widely criticized for trying to cement a role for the military in future politics.
His summary: “The draft version of the ‘Fundamental Principles’ that was circulated on 1 November 2011 is flawed in a large number of respects. Although its preamble seeks to portray the document as being non-binding and subject to popular sovereignty, its drafters clearly seek to impose all its provisions on the future constituent assembly’s work. Despite the lack of consensus between Egypt’s political parties on the issue, the November draft seeks to impose a particular type of relationship between religion and the state without the opportunity for a transparent and inclusive national debate. The November draft also seeks to grant the armed forces powers that are not in conformity with Egyptian constitutional tradition, with comparative constitutional practice or with general democratic principles. This applies not only to issues such as the military’s budget, but also to the amount of control that the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces can exercise over the drafting of the constitution by the coming constituent assembly.
The limitations that the November draft seeks to impose on that process, if implemented, will likely impair its democratic legitimacy and the future constitution’s ability to establish an improved system of governance. Finally, the November draft’s provisions on fundamental rights are lacking in detail and leave the door open to abuse by the executive branch of government. If the Egyptian government is to continue with its initiative to draft and issue a text on ‘Fundamental Principles’, these issues, amongst many others, must be resolved.”