Think Africa Press speaks to Dr Makeen Makeen from the SOAS School of Law about the constitutional challenges that now face Egypt. Starting from the premise that a constitution represents a social contract made between the government and the people, Dr. Makeen highlights the issues of legitimacy and legality facing the Army Supreme Council as it attempts to deal with this legacy of the old system.
The root of the problem, he argues, is the Army’s commitment to hand over power within the next six months, leaving little time to consider the paramount issue of Egypt’s new constitution or to implement the necessary institutional changes to nurture a democratic and fair political system. The constitution, as a relic from a discredited and illegitimate government, must not be allowed to serve as the basis of law and legitimacy in the new Egypt, regardless of the planned amendments. Anything short of an entirely new constitution will be insufficient; revisions will only undermine the authority and legitimacy of the following governments.
Serious doubts are subsequently cast on the potential of the March 19 referendum to create positive change. With voting set to take place in just over a week, Makeen espresses his well-founded fears that the Army has not given enough time - to itself nor to the people - to seriously consider and plan the proposed amendments. Taking the "short route" - rushing a process that takes years of careful work to complete - is a dangerous path to follow. And, considering the lack of contact from the international community about the March 19 referendum, is it really going to place? Perhaps, as Dr. Makeen suggests, this silence from transnational organisations (particularly on the monitoring of the voting) is a sign that the referendum could - wisely - be postponed.
Dr Makeen thus highlights the problem inherent in successful popular uprisings: what becomes the basis of legitimacy once the existing constitution is discredited? Through his exploration of this theme, Dr Makeen touches upon the fascinating questions of legitimacy, power, and the role that Egyptian identity could play in fostering real, long-term change.