Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Army Powers Expanded in Egyptian Draft Constitution

An Egyptian constitutional panel appointed by the military-backed government has come up with a draft charter overhauling Egypt's constitution. The Muslim Brotherhood promptly rejected the revised constitution, which modified the document that the Islamist party had approved while its leader, Mohamed Morsi, was president of Egypt until he was deposed by the army in July. Praise from the panel’s members has been tempered with unease from human rights and secular critics who say that the amendments give the military an inordinate amount of power. One clause gives the military the ability to veto the government’s choice for defense minister for the next two presidential terms. In addition, civilians may still be tried in military courts. While the constitution is couched in Islamic law, political parties are banned from being based on religion. This has given rise to concerns that the military is maintaining its grip on power despite its pledges to create a roadmap back to democracy. The new constitution also includes an article that leaves the procedure for a vote on the draft vague. According to analysts, the choice of whether parliamentary or presidential elections are held first falls to interim President Adly Mansour. After a decision is made, “procedures” for the first election must begin within 30 days of the adoption of the constitution, while preparations for the “other election” must begin within six months. Egypt has been wrapped in turmoil since the ouster of Morsi in July, when the military engaged in the most severe crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in its history. Thousands of political leaders have been arrested, while daily protests by Islamists lead to clashes throughout Cairo, the capital. American aid to the strategic Middle Eastern country has been put on hold.
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