Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

The Quandaries of a Secure Middle East? Egypt’s Proposed Constitutional Reforms Run Into Stiff Resistance

Posted by K.E. White on March 27, 2007

Numerous news-outlets are reporting on the bind Egypt’s moderate, democratic government has found itself in after trying to push religious parties out of the government. 

From Al Jazeera: 

Egypt‘s judges have vowed to boycott the supervision of future polls after rejecting the results of a referendum that approved a series of changes to the constitution.

“The judges wash their hands of the referendum results,” Ahmed Sabr, a spokesman for the body that represents the country’s judges, said on Tuesday. 

“We will no longer be a fig leaf to cover something shameful.”

The changes, which will help the government exclude religious parties from the political system, were backed by 75.9 per cent of people who voted but human rights groups estimated that turnout was less than 10 per cent.

The Egyptian justice ministry said 27.1 per cent of registered voters took part. 

The Economist caught the cynicism of the constitutional amendments:

Finally, in an Assembly where the Muslim Brotherhood, with less than a quarter of parliamentary seats, is still the only thing even remotely resembling an effective opposition grouping, further attempts to keep it out of political life are certain to be seen as anti-democratic. This is especially the case given the continuing stringent constraints on the formation of other opposition parties. If the Egyptian government were really serious about opening up the political arena to a secular alternative, it would abolish the stranglehold on the formation of new parties exercised by its highly restrictive Political Parties Committee.

The Middle East Times gives more details: 

The regime has defended the move as a boost to democracy and security, but the opposition and rights groups have described the changes, especially new anti-terrorism measures, as a major setback for basic freedoms.

“I affirm again that democracy will not be achieved only by constitution and legal texts but also by broadening participation,” Mubarak said in a televised address.

However, officially only 27.1 percent of the 35-million-strong electorate turned out, compared with 53 percent in a referendum two years earlier that paved the way for Egypt’s first contested presidential election.

The official American response? Take a look at these accommodating words from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

“We have had a discussion. I have made my concerns known as well as my hopes for continued reform here in Egypt,” Rice told a news conference after meeting with Mubarak.

“The process of reform is one that is difficult. It’s going to have its ups and downs. We always discuss these matters in a way that is respectful, mutually respectful. But I have made my concerns known, and we have had a good discussion,” she said.

Protesters seem to have had enough of “being mutually respectful.”


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