Diplomats ponder the good and bad on Egypt’s constitution debate

As the political tug-of-war continues over Egypt, concern is being expressed over the next phase – but so is hope

Dina Ezzat , Saturday 15 Dec 2012 ahrahmonline

For many Western diplomats in Cairo it is exhausting to stay on top of the developments of the current political process. At times it can get disturbing or even worrying. However, as some told Al-Ahram Online on Friday evening, the current political process offers more reason for hope than for concern.
“The most disturbing part – and I know that not many of my Egyptian friends would agree on this – is the clear state of division that has hit society; it is as if Egypt has turned into two camps,” said one European diplomat. She added that many of the Egyptian intellectuals and “ordinary citizens” she has been talking with over the past few weeks regarding the constitution up for referendum “which, of course, is part of a wider political debate” seem to be predominantly concerned over the “control the Muslim Brotherhood is trying take over everything in the country.”

For this diplomat, who is nearing the end of her four-year term in Egypt, “Yes, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists are hoping to dominate; we could all see this, but we could also see that it’s not easy for them,” she added.

The “strong and very vivid reaction” that many political forces have demonstrated should not be overshadowed by Islamists’ manoeuvrings to monopolise and “marginalise” other political forces – to borrow a description used by some of her interlocutors.

According to this and other foreign, mostly Western, diplomats in Egypt, the outcome of the constitutional referendum is unlikely to end the political tug-of-war that began with the drafting of the constitution, which has been controversial since twice the Assemblies drafting it saw withdrawals of key non-Islamist representatives, including churches in Egypt.

“My thinking is that the result will be a ‘Yes’ vote – not by a big percentage but eventually a ‘Yes’ vote. People would accept it but they would continue to demonstrate and they would lobby for parliamentary elections,” predicts a Western ambassador.

He added “throughout the course of this there might be some very tough and even sad moments, there might be blood, but eventually this political process would bring about a democracy by which the Islamists would have to adjust some to be able to continue to be part of the political scene.”


Soldiers stand guard as people wait outside a polling center to vote in a referendum on Egypt’s new constitution, in Cairo December 15, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

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