Constitutions play a critical part in revolutions, nowhere more than in Egypt after the miracle of Tahrir Square. The new political order defined by a constitution is what provides the final test of a revolution, not the breathtaking pageantry of demonstrations and martyrdom. The freedom born in Tahrir Square, the nationwide participation in self-government, and the collective rejection of corruption and misrule all deserve to be enshrined in a new constitution that is drafted by the people, not merely for the people.
Only a constitution written in convention by delegates chosen by the entire Egyptian people through free and internationally supervised elections can assure the continuation of the freedoms that were recovered in Tahrir Square. Only such a constitution can change the freedom won by the protesters from a conditional grant by powerful Egyptian military officers into a universal human right, enjoyed by every Egyptian because he or she is human.
It seems that the timidity of Egypt’s military rulers – their fears of losing power, wealth, and privilege – are threatening to turn the country away from what could have been, and still might be, a truly new beginning. Instead of a new order, a commission of experts and their military overseers have proposed constitutional amendments that may return Egypt to the same sad condition of the past, no doubt with some alterations around the edges.
For example: Although it is surely a good thing to widen eligibility for the presidency, and to limit an incumbent to two terms, no change is proposed to the current restrictions on establishing new parties. The Egyptian judiciary is to regain its role in supervising elections, but a new electoral commission is to govern the electoral process, and the powers of both the judiciary and the commission remain “to be determined by law.”