Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, April 05, 2007

New amendments may pave way for radicalism in Egypt

The “yes” vote in a March 26 national referendum in Egypt on a set of 34 proposed constitutional amendments was a “missed opportunity to have more openness in the political system,” according to Hala Mustafa and Augustus Richard Norton in an Daily Star op-ed on Wednesday. The writers say that the Egyptian government’s grip on power has tightened with the approval of the amendments, allowing for the potential rise of radicalism in the generation to come.

The referendum included amendments that greatly impact the freedoms of the Egyptian people. Articles protecting free speech, privacy and the right of dissent were removed. Another amendment weakened the judiciary’s role in monitoring elections. The embrace of Sharia law, however, was not changed. Consequently, “women remain less than fully equal citizens, and the amendments, advertised as ‘promoting democracy’, do nothing of the sort on behalf of women,” Mustafa and Nortan write. Additionally, the writers say that “instead of empowering liberal and secular voices that may counterbalance Islamists trends; instead of encouraging Islamist activists to seek political compromise with non-Islamists, the new amendments work against moderate, especially liberal, voices.”

The outcome of the referendum has only been supported by the ruling National Democratic Party. Other major political entities such as the Muslim Brotherhood are boycotting the results. Moreover, many local and international groups and observers do not agree with the Egyptian government’s assertion that more than 27 percent of registered voters cast their ballots. The writers conclude that, if the amendments are allowed to stand as passed, “the path to democracy will be a longer journey because of the March 26 referendum.”

For the full article, click here.


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