EGYPT: Top Cairo Academic Slams Government’s Reform Plan
Thursday, March 22,2007 00:00
By Alessia de Luca, AKI

Cairo, 20 March (AKI) - (by Alessia de Luca) - The failure to scrap a three decades-old article of Egypt’s constitution that guarantees the country’s president a life tenure means that a new package of reforms to be voted for in a referendum next week won’t make the government more accountable, according to a leading Egyptian political analyst and newspaper columnist. "The problem with this reform is not the changes it will bring, but the fact that it won’t change the anti-democratic nature of the Egyptian political system," Hassan Nafaa, dean of the political science faculty at Cairo University told Adnkronos International (AKI).

"If the government had wanted to reform the constitution in the interest of the people, then it would have started to do so by amending article 77 which stipulates the length of the president’s term of office.

"This article was amended by former president Anwar Sadat in the 1970s to keep himself in power. After Sadat’s assassination [in 1981] the amendment was left as it was", Nafaa explained.

The Egyptian political scientist also singled out the enshrining of state of emergency provisions within the proposed constitution and the amendment of Article 88 that abolished the judiciary’s supervision of elections, as other major shortcomings of the reform package.

"The state of emergency laws that were in force for over 30 years put on ice individual rights, but at least they existed in principle. Now with through the reforms the constitution itself will limit personal freedoms," Nafaa said.

Egypt lacks a political class capable of ushering in real reforms according to Nafaa.

"The ruling National Democratic Party created by Sadat has always been part of the state apparatus more than a real political party. This has also meant that opposition groups cannot operate like real political parties. The Muslim Brotherhood who currently represent the main opposition froce are not allowed to form a party," he said.

While the media enjoys a relative amount of freedom the power of newspapers to expose misgovernment and other political wrongdoings is limited, according to Nafaar. "With 40 percent of the population being illiterate newspapers don’t present a threat [to the government]" he told AKI.

Nafaar predicted a low turnout on 4 April when people will be called to vote in the refendum to approve the reforms.

"It’s a form of protest against a government which does not respect the opinions of its citizens. A silent majority that views the future with great apprehension," he concluded.