The 2014 Egyptian Constitution: Without Accountability, Checks or Balances

Since the announcement of the Constituent Assembly that they had completed a new draft constitution, there has been a celebratory atmosphere in Egypt and faith in the ability of the constitution to establish democracy and to protect the sovereignty of the Egyptian state. In the highly complex context in which the Constituent Assembly has been working, the government has determined that the constitution is the necessary basis from which to launch the democratic transition phase, in which there will be greater respect for pluralism and the rule of law. The discussion around the constituent elements of the new constitution has been one of total polarization: either with the constitution or against it and with mobilization in favour of a yes vote proposed for the protection of the nation and in support of stability.

With the near absence of rational constitutional debate, these two articles attempt to focus on a common perspective from which to evaluate the proposed text. The articles thus focus on “accountability mechanisms,” measuring the extent to which the 2014 constitution realizes the people’s desire for checks on power and enforced accountability of state actors, whether through elected legislative representatives, through the principle of mutual checks among state institutions or through public gatherings of the people. The first article deals with the points that are missing from the constitutional text in terms of accountability and checks on the armed forces and the Egyptian police. The second article discusses the constitution’s focus on the concept of “independence” of the judiciary as a substitute for concern with its “neutrality”, the transparency of its appointments, and its effectiveness as a basic system for establishing and implementing justice for all citizens.

The paper seeks to address an essential question that has been absent from debates about the new constitution: to what extent and by what mechanisms can the constitution pave the way for a democratic future that safeguards the right of citizens, their representatives and their organizations to accountability in government and checks on power?

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.