Egypt Independent

Please, don’t amend the Constitution!

Anyone in this country who desires reform places the amendment of Egypt’s Constitution at the top of their list of demands. But every time the regime responds to such demands, it does the opposite of what is asked of it.

Such outcomes don’t deter the proponents of constitutional reform, who stubbornly persist in their pursuit of constitutional change. If I may offer my opinion on the matter, I say: Please don’t amend the constitution!

The first amendment to the national charter over the last 30 years was to Article 77, in May 1980. Before this, the article stipulated that the president could remain in his position no more than two six-year terms. Now, after the amendment, there are no such limits, and the president can stay in his position with constitutional backing the remainder of his life.

This shows that amending the constitution can only make things worse–not better, as the proponents of reform would have it–however good intentions might be. Please, therefore: Don’t amend the Constitution!
The second amendment to the constitution occurred in February 2005, when President Hosni Mubarak announced that Article 76 would be tweaked to allow the people to choose their president through "free and direct" elections, as opposed to a referendum system as had been the case since the July 1952 Revolution.

It soon became clear, however, that it would have been better if Article 76 had been left alone. As a result of the change, elections became–in practice–much closer to a referendum than to the kind of democratic elections known in the free world. So please: Don’t amend the Constitution!
The third amendment over the course of the last 30 years came in December 2006, when President Mubarak requested that amendments be made to 34 articles all at once. Matters, however, quickly deteriorated after these amendments were signed into law.

There is no better proof of this than what happened to the judiciary. Before the constitutional amendments of 2006, the judiciary had been charged with supervising elections, down to the smallest detail. Afterwards, the judiciary was no longer charged with supervising the workings of the electoral subcommittees, leaving only the general committees under its jurisdiction.

Such a state of affairs is tantamount to having no electoral monitoring at all, and will allow the will of the voters to be openly flouted.
Even though we say that we won’t be fooled again, it seems that–in reality–we want to be deceived by the same trick three, four, even ten times. We descend to the streets demanding constitutional amendments, particularly to the three articles mentioned above, even though we know that the political climate in Egypt can only lead to amendments that–if they occur at all–end up giving us the exact opposite of what we want.
Of course, this isn’t a call for defeatism. I’m not saying we should give up on hope of real constitutional reform–reform of the kind that actually corresponds to the will of the people. This is merely an expression of what many are feeling in our country.
However, in the vein of the old advertising technique known as "negative suggestion," in which advertisements would tell consumers not to do something–knowing full well this would make them do the exact opposite–I repeat: Please don’t amend the Constitution!
Translated from the Arabic Edition.