December 15, 2013
Egypt has set voting dates of January 14-15 for a referendum on a new constitution.
The current constitution was thrown out, along with the elected government, including President Mohamed Morsi, in a military takeover of the government in July. Interim President Adly Mansour has presided over the drafting of a new governmental blueprint, written by a 50-member panel of academics and politicians. Former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa led the panel and the drafting.
The new constitution would disallow the formation of religious political parties. It was not immediately clear whether the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most powerful Islamist organization, would call for a boycott of the referendum. Opposition to the Brotherhood's constitution resulted in a boycott of the previous referendum, which approved a new constitution in 2011 and paved the way for a Islamist-dominated Parliament and the election of Morsi as President.
The new constitution also solidifies the military at the upper echelons of government, giving military leaders power to appoint the Defense Minister for a considerable period of time and making the military exempt from some judicial oversight.
Rights groups were heartened by some aspects of the new constitution, including more provisions for women's rights and for certain political freedoms.
It is still not clear in which order the presidential and parliamentary elections will take place. A previous draft of the constitution stipulated that, as in the past, parliamentary elections would precede the presidential election. That order of events is lacking from the current draft.
Of Egypt's estimated 85 million people, nearly 50 million have the right to vote.