Egypt’s President Mohammad Mursi has dangerously split his country by going too fast on drafting a new constitution. A constitution has to be inclusive and has to restrict itself to issues of fundamental principles under which governments of different political persuasions will be able to operate. It should take into account the variety of people that inhabit Egypt and should not favour any one particular type of Egyptian citizens.
This is why Mursi made a mistake when his quarrel with the Supreme Court’s right of review of the constitutional process led him to ask the constitutional assembly to rush through a new constitution.
An earlier boycott by Christian, secular and liberal members had led to them being removed from the assembly and replaced by hard line Islamists. The result was a draft constitution that will have to be reviewed in the future and is unacceptable to the totality of Egyptians.
An inclusive constitution should not place so much emphasis on courts using jurisprudence based on Sharia. However, it should also not be necessary to reduce both the minimum age for marriage as well as joining the work force as a line in the constitution, rather than having them subject to law.
This hasty launch of a new constitution has been condemned by opposition groups, who called for more protests against the referendum, claiming that Mursi has broken his promise not to call a referendum without gaining a wide national consensus.
“The National Salvation Front condemns the irresponsible act by the president of the republic in calling a referendum on an illegitimate constitution that is rejected by a large section of his people,” said the leading alliance of opposition groups.
This was supported by the Judges’ Club, the union which represents the profession that refused to oversee the referendum on the country’s new draft constitution in two weeks.
These twin attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood government come from an unusual alliance of the largely secular liberal opposition and the judiciary, which was appointed during the Hosni Mubarak era.