A group of Egypt’s elite politicians and senior public figures announced Tuesday the launch of an NGO called the “Egyptian Foundation to Protect the Constitution”.
Amr Moussa, who was part of the 50-member committee that drafted the constitution, read the founding statement of the new organisation in a press conference held at the Press Syndicate.
The constitution was passed in a public referendum in January 2014 with 98% approval. It made advancements in articles related to the protection of freedoms and rights.
The recently elected parliament will examine a condensed amount of laws according to constitutional expert Mohamed Nour Farahat, also a founding member of the new organisation.
“Some laws were described explicitly in the constitution, such as laws on social justice, the organisation of the construction of churches, the establishment of a national commission to counter discrimination, the organisation of the judiciary, and, last but not least, laws organising the participation of women in the public sphere,” Farahat said during the conference.
However, the constitution is facing “threats” amid ongoing calls by some figures in the media to amend it, read the founding statement, prepared by Moussa and more than 30 public figures who participated in establishing the new foundation.
The media reported such comments by some politicians, such as MP and journalist Mostafa Barky, following a statement made by Al-Sisi during a public speech at Suez Canal University last September.
Al-Sisi said the constitution was drafted with “good intentions, but that those were not enough to build a country”. This statement stirred controversy, as political and social figures interpreted the message to mean that “the state was no longer bound by constitutional grounds”.
Despite the statement being open to interpretation, it sparked a political debate regarding possible amendments to the constitution, thus jeopardising important authorities given to the parliament over executive powers in the new constitution, on top of which was the ability to withdraw confidence from the president and prime minister.
Therefore, the “Egyptian Foundation to Protect the Constitution” said it decided to raise public awareness of the principles of the constitution, promote their protection, and implement its articles. Moreover, the foundation hopes to provide alternatives to laws and legislations that do not match new constitutional principles.
“Our stance is clear. We need to translate articles of the constitution into laws first and revise the current legislations and their alignment with the new constitutional text, and reject any talk of amending the constitution at this point,” Moussa stated. In response to a question posed by Daily News Egypt as to the lack of a specific article of the constitution under threat, he stated that rather they are concerned with “the tardiness of fully implementing the constitutional articles”.
Among the founders of the newly launched NGO were members of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) such as Ehab El-Kharat, Hoda El-Sadda, Hanna Grees, Ziad Bahaa El-Din and Nevine Ebeid, in addition to members of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) such as Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Gamal Fahmy and Nevine Mossaad.
Other public figures included Abdul Gelil Mostafa, Magdy Yaacoub, Mona Zulfaqqar, Azza Al-Ashmawy, and Yehia Qalash.
During the conference, ESDP leader Mohamed Abol Ghar told Daily News Egypt that the role played by the civil society in Egypt is what has kept state institutions from falling apart during critical times.
“Our strong civil society is what differentiates our country from countries like Syria Iraq and Libya. Since the 19th century, Egyptian civil society has been involved in all aspects of the public sphere. During the chaotic incidents that followed the revolution in 2011, and the retreat of the Interior Ministry’s forces, civil society successfully held the country together and people even organised themselves to fill in the gap in security,” Aboul Ghar stated.
Aboul Ghar then added that no matter how many times different Egyptian regimes have attempted to tighten their grip on civil organisations, civil society has always prevailed, and is feared by officials.
According to Moussa, civil society should now be concerned with helping society, and the parliament, by effectively implementing the constitution.
Former parliamentary candidate Amr El-Shobaky also spoke to Daily News Egypt after the press conference about the role of the government in the upcoming period.
“I sense that the government wants to prioritise economic issues, and delay political and other freedoms and rights issues. I am strongly convinced that both must develop in parallel, because there will be no economic prosperity as long as hundreds of innocent youth are political detainees,” El-Shobaky stated.
The cabinet is scheduled to present its programme to the parliament on 27 March.