Hossam Bahgat, the founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said the members from the Committee of 50, charged with drafting the current constitution, are outdated and out of touch with current political and social realities.
The majority of the people involved in the current drafting of the constitution had participated in the creation of the 1971 constitution, Bahgat says, and they did this without realizing international and legal changes, which caused a boom in the drafting of constitutions over the last forty years.
Bahgat said that if those responsible for running the state do not seek a collective process of recovery and healing from the wounds of the past, the constitution would be “wasted ink.”
“Egypt has been outdated since 1971, despite developments in constitutional and legal affairs around the whole world,” Bahgat argued. “For example, the chapter on public rights and freedoms still holds the same title despite the fact that it contains articles on the sanctity of private life, not to mention the committee refusal to draft the articles on rights related to health, environment and food within the chapter of the rights and freedoms. They (the committee) are drafting those rights among the elements of a state, despite the fact that social justice has become part of the rights and freedoms.”
Bahgat continued, “Each time we address ‘the masters of law and justice’ involved in the drafting process of the constitutional with a sample to follow, the Brazilian for example, they refuse to use it and instead favor drafting the constitution in a ‘very laconic way,’ with general principles but no mechanism to apply and monitor such principles.”
Bahgat provided the articles on citizen’s health as an example. He said the issue requires a whole chapter in the constitution but is being rejected on the grounds that details could be provided by laws, not the constitution.
He explained that long ago, Egyptian legal practice originated as a profession and as a part of the resistance movement against colonialism, which led it to being covered with national pride. “Unfortunately, this has been reflected in a harmful manner (in the constitution),” he said. “There is an excessive national pride making those drafting the constitution refuse to emulate other constitutions.”
“In general, the street is not going to be satisfied with a constitution that does not meet its ambitions. The urge to pass through this stage at any price, means to just copy the same mistakes the Muslim Brotherhood made, investing in a formality just to produce a written text with general principles which would not bring about stability and would not prevent the political process from falling apart.”
He noted that holding the sessions of the 50-member constitution committee in secrecy prevents citizens from knowing how each member would vote. Bahgat said that due to that secrecy, the majority of consensus is made in closed rooms, making it possible to vote on an article that had already been rejected. This article is on the right of the president not to commit to the results of the parliamentary elections when choosing a prime minister.