"Is it true that the current battle over the new constitution in Egypt consists in differences over a few articles … and a couple of phrasings and details here and there?" asked Hala Mostafa, a contributor to the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram, in a column on October 27.
Modern definitions refer to "the spirit of the constitution", in the sense that this document sums up the political and rational framework that a nation agrees to adopt as a platform to ensure internal stability and achieve progress, the writer said.
A constitution has to do with fundamentals such as the state's identity and its overarching political and economic orientation. And Egypt, like other Arab Spring nations, appears to have not yet woken up to this approach.
A constitution "is not just a bunch of inanimate clauses, a series of pedantic details or a hodgepodge of incongruous articles put together", the writer said.
No one can deny "the state of confusion as well as the apparent and backstage conflicts that are boiling under the surface" as the process of drafting a new Egyptian constitution is getting under way, she added.
It shows that the revolution was not enough, since it did not produce an alternative leadership that could consummate the break with the old regime and steer the country safely to freedom, the writer argued.
"The issue, then, lies not in the constitution per se," she said, for there is a bigger conflict about fundamentals that runs deeper.
When there is wide disagreement about the nation's political, economic and cultural orientations as well as the system of government and national identity, it means that there is nothing to build on in the first place.
If one compares the Arab Spring uprisings to other revolutions that instated democracy in the West or Eastern Europe, one will notice a clear difference. In the latter, despotism was the sole candidate for radical change, while all other critical aspects of the nation's heritage - the state's identity and attitude to progress and modernity - remained practically stable.
"In the Arab experience, however, the [postrevolutionary] debate is about everything from the relationship between religion and politics and the part of heritage in building modern society to issues of education, women's and minorities' rights, civic freedoms, art and more," she wrote.
These are debates that have not been settled in Egypt for over a century and a half, she added.
"Answers to elemental questions remained on the fence, swaying between tradition and modernity, with one side getting the upper hand at various historical intervals."
This is why the process of drafting a new constitution in Egypt is pulling the nation back to square one instead of propelling it forward, the author concluded.
The National (UAE)
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