I was not impressed with the news stories written about the new Egyptian constitution that passed the first phase of the referendum. With most of them lacking any specificity, they were at best only commentary. Being completely unsatisfied with someone telling me what says in broad generalities, I decided to look it up for myself and I found this English translation.
The first thing that I noticed that is it is packed with specificity. There are more than 200 articles and many of them are vague or contradictory. It doesn’t seem like the kind of basic governing document a country would want to have if the idea is to reduce controversy as much as possible through simplicity.
My impression of the government it constitutes is that it isn’t a government under which I would want to live, and I certainly won’t be beating their doors down to invest in their economy either.
The first issue is that Islam is declared the official State religion and the basis of Egyptian law will be Islam. It is interesting because later on it bans discrimination on basis of religion, but there is no basic freedom of religion or belief. It appears to me that this document creates a separate but equal kind of society, likely in name only.
I wonder if the people voting for this document believe they will have a democracy once it is ratified. Perhaps they don’t understand that democracy is more than just voting because this constitution contains a provision for Al-Azhar, an autonomous Islamic religious governing council, with the head of it appointed by clerics and is not removable. The State must fund this body and it must be consulted regarding all legislation that goes through the legislature. So the people will elect representatives only to have them overridden by a council of clerics. It’s true that the constitution does not require the legislature to rubberstamp whatever comes out of this council; but depending on how religious these people are, it might happen quite often. It seems a bit more democratic than the Iranian theocracy, but not by much.
On the economic front, it is abysmal. They really are not joking about ensuring quality, basically instilling in their constitution what amounts to making every enterprise a coop, public or private, demanding better pay for employees before shareholders get a cut. They will also try to solve the problem with soaring unemployment by making it nearly impossible to dismiss employees. A right to a job and a minimum income is guaranteed; so they will have a problem like Greece right off the bat, too many government employees and not enough productive enterprises. I wonder who they believe is going to pay the bills. From what I understand the economy there is in a shambles and it will likely only get worse with this kind of stuff in there in addition to the allowable nationalization of anything that is for the public good.
To complicate the economic matters, the Egyptians have decided to grant asylum to any Arabic Muslim who asks. Well, gee. Why not pay the entire Muslim world to not work? I can imagine nearly all of Gaza and the West Bank emptying out, just to start with. It might be a good thing in the short run; but I can see it turning sour once the Egyptian Government bankrupts itself – like Lebanon. Iran has some serious problems right now and I highly doubt it can be the sugar daddy for the Egyptians as it has been for the Lebanese, and to some extent the Syrians. They’re going to have to figure out how to fund this monstrous adaptation of socialism largely on their own, and I just don’t see how that is possible.
It really is sad to see the Egyptians baking epic fail into their constitution, and people are actually voting for it. One way or another, I don’t believe it will last; and I hope when it all comes crashing down, that its demise isn’t violent.