Recent events in Egypt are reawakening the discontent that ended in the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak. Last Thursday, November 22, newly elected President Mohamed Morsi declared that Egypt’s courts cannot overturn decisions he’s made since entering office in June or over the next six months, nor can they alter the makeup or work of the 100-person group crafting Egypt’s new constitution. The move by Morsi represents a gross overreach of executive power that ultimately renders any judicial oversight by Egypt’s courts powerless. Egypt’s judges have responded by shutting down all but seven of Egypt’s 34 courts and 90% of its prosecutors have gone on strike.
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi are predictably declaring the move as a temporary measure to keep any remaining Mubarak supporters in the judicial branch from hurting the process of writing Egypt’s new constitution. As Americans, we take pride in the fact that our three-branch system keeps itself in line through a system of checks and balances. If one of the branches were to declare itself supreme and override the other two, there would be outcry across the country just as there is in Egypt now. Morsi has effectively created a dictatorship and placed himself and his party supporters in charge of writing the Egyptian constitution. In a most recent development, Morsi has responded to the protests by by suggesting that the constitution vote be moved up to as early as fifteen days from now. If the constitution passes by a popular vote with the committee charged with drafting it, it will then be put up for a vote with the Egyptian people.
Late last night the committee charged with drafting Egypt’s new constitution, passed all 230 articles over a period of 16 hours. According to the Associated Press, “Of the 85 members in attendance, there was not a single Christian and only four women, all Islamists.” Now the draft will go up for a vote with the people of Egypt to determine if it is adopted. Several articles contain vague wording and could be interpreted very generally.
The newly drafted constitution is the most worrying for minority groups in Egypt, who fear that their rights may be taken away from them. Freedom of speech and women’s rights are two of the most prominent examples that may be affected if the Egyptian people adopt the new constitution.
Protesters are now occupying Tahrir for the eighth day and are continuing to demand that Morsi withdraw his recent decree. The Muslim Brotherhood is planning to hold rallies this Saturday to support Morsi. It doesn’t seem surprising that Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, would take the actions he has in recent weeks as a way to force his parties interests and beliefs on the rest of the country. The next two weeks will be tense as the world looks on to see what the outcome of the current standoff will be in Egypt. Will the Egyptian people adopt the newly written constitution and if so, will Morsi restore the courts authority? If the Egyptian people adopt this new constitution, I think that the United States needs to take a serious look at the financial aid that we provide to Egypt. As the leader of the free world, we have to set an example and show that we won’t support this kind of radical behavior from Egypt.