Referendum on New Pro-Army Constitution in Egypt
Egypt's military-backed government held the constitutional referendum on 14 and 15 Janaury 2014. News agencies reported that the referendum was conducted under tight security. Also 11 to 14 people were reported dead, some wounded and hundred of people arrested during the voting. The Muslim Brotherhood and some other oppisition forces boycotted the referendum. According to Egypt's official news reports, between 50 to 55 percent of eligible voters cast their votes and of these 90 percent said 'Yes' to the draft constitution.
The amendments in Egypt 's new constitution threaten some of people's civil and political rights, for example by allowing military trials for civilians, necessitating the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ approval of the appointment of the defence minister for two presidential terms and authorizing the National Defence Council to decide the military budget. The Parliament doesn't have the right to examine the military budget details. The trial of the civilians in military courts has been considered one of the most controversial paragraphs in the draft constitution. Egyptian activists strongly oppose this paragraph which is against international norms and regulations. In some cases, the articles are so broad and general that they can be interpreted in any way. There is even a contradictory statement about the relation between religion and the state. For example, the second article in the new constitution stipulates that "Islam is the state religion and Sharia the main source of legislation in this country.", while in another article it states that "any political activity or formation of political parties on the basis of religion are banned".
On the first day of the referendum, the US Congress passed a $1.525 billion aid package for the Egyptian army. This symbolic gesture was cosnidered by many as Washington's support for Egypt’s new constitution. The draft constitution allows the army to act as a state within the state. To be more specific, the new constitution allows the Egyptian army during the next eight years to appoint the Minister of Defence. The Egyptian military control 15 percent of the country's main economy . This portion of the economy is so interwined with the rest of the economy to give the army colossal economic power. The new constitution stipulates that any one who brings damages to this part of the economy, the military establishment and its equipment, or public funds and factories can face military trials. Article 203 sipulates that the National Defence Council will decide on the budget of the armed forces and intelligence agencies. The new constitution also gives more authority to the police and army forces to suppress oppostion. Also Gen. Abdul Fattah Sisi, the army chief, has said that he will run for April 2014 elections if people and the army want this.
The workers and the other deprived layers of the society were the main forces behind the mass uprisings both during its first wave that toppled Mubarak's regime and during its second wave that went to overthrow the Islamist government but was interrupted by the army's intevention and then takeover. The working class has been and will continue demanding a better life, safer work conditions as well freedom for Egyptian citizens. This class that has been struggling for these rights for decades could under the golobal capitalist crisis as well as deep internal crisis become the driving force behind a movement that burst out on 25 January 2011 and brought down long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak on February. But because it lacked class solidarity and was deprived of its own communist working-class party and independent organizations was unable to make its mark on the Egyptian revolution. First Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood tried to harness the revolution and return the situation to what it was during Hossni Mobarak's era by suppressing, killing and attacking the workers’ living conditions and benefits. Then after the Islamists were ousted, the liberals backed by the army came back to the scene in order to push back the working class and those chanting for bread and freedom. Despite the massacre of thousands of people, the liberals have so far neither been able to create the conditions for the return of dictatorship nor the stability required for the return of investors, imperialistic states as well as their allies in the region.
The new constitution and Janaury 14-15 referendum are integral parts of the army's efforts to serve the goals of the Egyptian bourgeoisie for returning stability with the support of the US imperialism. The current political and economic situation in Egypt shows that these efforts too will most likely lead nowhere but to failure. In that case, the circumastances will be ripe for the return of the Egyptian working class and other progressive movements to the arena of struggle. However, any advancement by the working class will depend on whether this class can form its own revolutionnary leadership during the coming social struggles. Socialism is the only alternative to the current political and social crisis in Egypt and the only way to secure freedom and a human life for everyone in this country.