Egyptian Army Accepts Constitutional Amendments

Egypt takes another step towards constitutional reform.

Via the BBC:  Egypt’s army passes draft constitutional amendments.

The changes, which I noted here, will be offered up to a national referendum, the date of which has not been announced to my knowledge.

While there are some important changes in the amendments, the overall package still strikes me as inadequate in terms of a full transition to democracy as they do nothing about the powers of the president.  In other words, while the changes should create real competition for the office, the officeholder will still have the powers that Mubarak had, save for the fact that a state of emergency can only be declared for six months at a time (and with parliamentary approval).  While that is no small thing, it is likely insufficient.

Now, it is possible that with free and fair elections that this will so change the content of the parliament and presidency that this will have important changes to institutional behavior.  The Mexican case comes to mind as a crude analogy, insofar as the president has disproportionate powers during the pre-2000 period when Mexico was essentially a one party authoritarian state under the control of the PRI, but once true electoral competition was introduced the Congress started to actually assert itself within the already established system in ways that it did not in the previous era.

Still, at this stage it would seem that deeper changes to the Egyptian constitution are warranted, and the BBC piece at least alludes to the possibility:

The changes are long-standing demands of the Egyptian opposition, some of whom have also wanted to limit presidential powers.

But the committee that drafted the changes said it had decided to postpone that issue until after the elections.

Exactly what that may mean remains to be seen.

More directly, Ahram online notes that the head of the Constitutional Reform Committee is describing these changes thusly:

El Bishry added that these changes are temporary until a new constitution is tailored by the new government. Citizens will only be able to vote using their national ID.

This strikes me as quite positive and it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter