Transitional Constitutional Declaration Issued

July 9, 2013 . By
Interim President Adly Mansour | AFP
Interim President Adly Mansour | AFP

A transitional constitutional declaration was issued by interim President Mansour. The 33-article document will serve to govern the country until the conclusion of the constitutional revision process spelled out in the document. In that process, a 10-member committee of judges and other legal experts, appointed by the president, would draft a set of constitutional amendments. These amendments would then be sent to a 50-member committee comprising members of Egypt’s many social groups and institutions, including al-Azhar and the Coptic Church. Members of this larger committee, partly nominated by social institutions and partly selected by the Cabinet, would vote on the first committee’s suggestions and submit a final draft for a popular referendum. It appears that the larger committee could consider other changes aside from those proposed by the smaller committee. The constitutional declaration specified that the referendum on an amended constitution would occur within four months; parliamentary elections would be held two weeks later; and presidential elections would occur in six months (i.e. in January). An unofficial translation of the document is available here.

Criticism of the declaration emerged very quickly from both within and outside Egypt. Representatives of the Coptic and Catholic churches expressed concern that an article regarding personal status laws had not been retained. Also of particular concern to the churches and other civil groups was Article 1, which combined Articles 2 and 219 of the 2012 Constitution (these two articles state that Islamic sharia is the primary source of legislation and specifically cite Sunni Islamic references as a basis for determining the legitimacy of religious judgments). Among other concerns, Salafi figures were displeased that the role of al-Azhar in issuing opinions on the consonance of proposed legislation with Sharia was not mentioned. The National Salvation Front noted that the document had been issued without any consultation between the President and themselves, while representatives of Tamarod went so far as to say that the declaration “lays the foundation for a new dictatorship.”

Nathan Brown, a professor focused on democratization and constitutional development in the Middle East, commented that “[the declaration] was drawn up by an anonymous committee [and] issued by executive fiat; the timetable is rushed; the provisions for consultation are vague; and it promises inclusiveness but gives no clear procedural guidelines for it.” He noted that these were the same problems that had led to the controversial 2012 Constitution. In defense of the declaration, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi stated the document assured Egypt was moving in the right direction, adding that it was both specific and clear in its timetable and goals.

The spokesman for the interim president, Ahmed el-Musalamani, stated that governmental posts would be offered to the Freedom and Justice Party and the Nour Party. In response, FJP senior official Mohamed Kamal stated that the FJP would never join a cabinet without Morsi as president. Regarding the selection of a prime minister, the Nour Party stated that it would accept the appointment of former finance minister Samir Radwan (although he ultimately would not be selected). Later in the day, interim President Mansour did appoint a prime minister and an interim vice-president: another former finance minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, was appointed as the new prime minister, while Mohamed El-Baradei was appointed as interim vice president.

Violent clashes continued in the northeast, where two people were killed and six more were injured in another attack on security checkpoints in North Sinai. A rocket-propelled grenade struck a truck at Sadr El-Heitan checkpoint, killing 27-year old Mahmoud Abdel-Ghany, a civilian, and another unnamed person. On Tuesday, night masked gunmen fired at the Mar Mina Church in Port Said’s Manakh area. The perpetrators were not identified, and no one was killed or directly injured.

As part of a continuing crackdown on Islamist media, Amgad Studios, a Salafi Daawa channel, was raided by security forces. Its director, Hani al Banna, was referred for prosecution.

The first of several pledges of economic aid to Egypt from abroad came as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced a total of $8 billion in aid ($5 billion from Saudi Arabia; $3 billion from the UAE). The aid took the form of $4 billion in central bank deposits, $2 billion worth of gas and other energy products, and another $2 billion in cash grants.