Happy New Parliament?

Amid protests outside and various theatrics, the newly elected lower house of the Egyptian parliament convened today (photos and updates of the political posturing here). Their supposed main task will be to designate a constitution-writing body, which will have only a few weeks to draft a constitution ahead of presidential elections. But this task is less important than it seems, because 1) an already congealing SCAF-Brotherhood deal will prevent any serious changes to the existing constitution’s protections for both rights/freedoms and privileges (if this deal wasn’t inevitable before, it was made so by the Salafi Nour party’s 24.7% share of lower-house parliamentary seats) and 2) it remains to be seen, anyway, whether the constitution will be respected at all, or whether some new sort Emergency will allow SCAF to abrogate parts of it at will or simply throw the whole thing out the window. (Rremember the whole fight over the constitutional amendments last March, which SCAF’s “constitutional declaration” later overwrote without a trace?)

Thus the resigned tone of veteran human rights activist Hossam Bahgat (quoted in the NY Times article on the deal): “We feel that because of the military council’s mismanagement of the transition, we have been robbed of a historic opportunity to go through a transformative, healing process of asking who we are as a country and what we want our constitution to look like. . . That is a distant dream now.”

Meanwhile, don’t miss Robert Worth’s fascinating profile of Mohamed Beltagy, “Egypt’s Human Bellweather.” Just a glimmer of hope that there are relatively powerful decent people still willing to fight (even within the Brotherhood!) for a marginally more just political system. Otherwise, the situation one year after the “revolution” is making many of my friends wish aloud that Facebook had a “DISLIKE” button (actually I dislike this cartoon too):

(“We chose him, we endorsed him, we’re with him to whatever God wills…”)


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