The Fruits of their Labor: Egypt’s Vote on its First Constitution since Mubarak

Molly Morabito, News Editor

CAIRO—While most Americans were still enjoying their new Christmas gifts, the Egyptian populace was once again taking to the streets in protest. Tahrir Square was once again filled with protesters, creating a scene that was nearly identical to the one two years ago when the people assembled to oust their president, Hosni Mubarak. This time, instead of a violent dictator, the people had gathered to protest a new Constitution, which the new Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, had just signed into law.

64% of voters in the two-part referendum voted for the Constitution—but only a third of the estimated Egyptian electorate actually turned out for the vote. There have been several claims of voting fraud made against the election results. Already, violence has broken out over the constitutional argument.

Protesters distrust Morsi, their current president, and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement with which he appears closely aligned. The movement has gained notable influence in Egypt, ever since aiding the Egyptian people in overthrowing Mubarak.

The controversy around the constitution is partly due to the fact that the document designates Islam as Egypt’s official religion and makes Islamic law, or Sharia, the primary source of legislation—essentially making Egypt into a theocracy. Many Egyptians feel that the Constitution ignores the rights of many minorities, such as liberals and Christians.

An international human rights group called the Human Rights Watch has said the constitution “protects some rights but undermines others” and “fails to end military trials of civilians or to protect freedom of expression and religion”.

Supporters of Morsi, who are mainly Islamist, believe that the constitution will protect Egypt’s hard-earned democracy and will bring stability to a time where it has been severely lacking.

Overall, the constitution alone appears to be relatively balanced on the issues of basic rights for citizens and the role of government. However, the language appears rather vague and leaves a lot open to interpretation. Members of the opposition, with the tyranny of Mubarak still fresh in their minds, claim that such openings could be easily exploited by an oppressive regime.

Although the Egyptians successfully deposed one dictator, it appears the revolution of Egypt has not yet ended. Their rights have been earned—but the question that remains is can they keep them?