Next step after elections: writing a constitution

Next step after elections: writing a constitution

Everyone is awaiting the official announcement of the results of the first ever free competitive presidential elections in Egypt. Egyptians have voted for their new president, or at the very least for the two runners-up. The counting of votes began late Thursday night, following two days of voting. It is expected to continue until Saturday. The final count and official announcement is scheduled for Sunday or Monday at the latest. It will be a long and anxious wait for all. The runoff election is set for June 16 and 17.

This is indeed an unbelievable moment for millions of Egyptians, who less than two years ago would have not even dreamed it was possible. The two days of voting were no less momentous than the days of the revolution in January 2011. Many were reminded of how they got to this moment, many paid tribute to the lives of the revolutionary martyrs, the wounded and the imprisoned.

For Egypt today, anything and everything is possible. Regardless of his name, face or platform, the president-elect will be the first ever to have been given his mandate by the people. This president will be accountable to the people. It might still be too early in the game to expect a well-polished version of democratic rule, but for Egypt this is undeniably a start. In just a few daysEgypt will celebrate the end of what some have called a transitional period. It took a year and half, from the ousting of a life-long ruler to the first-ever free election of an Egyptian president.

The achievement is unmistakable; the transition, however, is far from over, for in reality, Egyptians have yet to create their own new constitution. A constitution that restores the basic values of freedoms and justice for all might not be the greatest obstacle. Instead it will be the parts of the constitution that establish the relationship between the powers of the executive branch, the judicial branch, and the military that is really the crux here. There is no doubt that the now obvious postponement of the creation of a constitution, which began very early on in March 2011 at the onset of the political process, and has continued through the election of the new Parliament and up to the election of the president indicates a struggle for power that has not yet been settled.

Egypt still has a long way to go before settling it. A great deal could still happen in the 30 days left remaining before the scheduled handover of power from the ruling military council, promised for June 30. For starters, there will always be some who contest the first results of the presidential elections. So far, although there have been some reported incidents of irregularities and questionable behavior, most have been handled promptly and serious efforts have been made to reassure the public that the process was clean and fair. It is the few weeks leading up to the runoffs that will be more heated, depending on Monday’s results. More critically, the anticipated announcement of an addition to the Military Council’s already-decreed constitutional announcement could affect the course of events.

With many people busy counting votes and as many working to tally the numbers, this will be a weekend for rumors, anticipation and looking for early indicators. A new week will soon bring news of who may lead Egypt into its next transition.