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Mohamed Abla: A Voice for Culture in the Egyptian Constitution

Mohamed Abla
Mohamed Abla

From my recent article at Arab West Report, the first in a series of interviews of members of the committee which wrote Egypt’s constitution. Mohamed Abla is an internationally acclaimed Egyptian artist and was a leading figure in the protests against the appointment of an Islamist head to the Ministry of Culture. As such, protection of culture became a constitutional necessity:

One area that was mostly uncontroversial, but dear to his heart, was the inclusion of several articles promoting culture. Articles 47-50 oblige the state to foster cultural development and protect its cultural heritage, but this section was strange to many only in that it was new. In the end, only Salafīs opposed.

Most of the interview dealt with controversial elements, however. One area in question was the decision of the committee to yield the decision on electoral order and system to the president. Some have wondered if this was cooked in advance to make way for Sisi’s presidential campaign:

‘Ablah said this was completely absent from their negotiations. Some members favored presidential elections first, other parliamentary. Some favored a parliament elected by individual candidacy, some by party list or something in-between. As they debated, positions shifted. In the end, the Committee of Fifty decided two things. First, they were unable to come to an agreement. Second, they were unequipped to come to an agreement. Technical matters such as these require data that would take a long period to study judiciously. Given their sixty day timeframe, proper determinations were not feasible. The president, however, will be able to summon all the tools of state to engage in social dialogue, gather pertinent data, and make a decision in the best interests of the country. Beside, ‘Ablah stated, such matters should not be made permanent in the constitution. Members desired flexibility in the political system; if an individual candidacy is preferred now, perhaps party list will be better in ten years when political life is stronger.

‘Ablah admits he was an anomaly in the committee, as he is not connected to the government. But as such he may have been ignored in any backroom political machinations. He saw very little, however, that even approached the idea of trading votes for certain articles. “These issues were not postponed for anyone’s interests.”

Please click here to read the rest of the article at Arab West Report.