Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Failed Revolutions: Mao's China, Lenin's Russia, Khomeini's Iran. Is Egypt Next?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Failed Revolutions: Mao's China, Lenin's Russia, Khomeini's Iran. Is Egypt Next?

Article excerpt

What's the true test of a revolution's success? The new constitution. Unfortunately, Egypt's military assigned a commission of experts, not elected representatives of the people, to draft a new constitution - threatening to derail reforms those in Tahrir Square fought so hard to win.

Thanks to the startling grace and gentleness of the majority of the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples, we suddenly remember that human beings can be unexpectedly peaceful, loving, and inclusive in our millions. We've seen these nations' streets graced with laughing children and jubilant men and women singing, praying, and freely mixing without regard to class, gender, or faith.

Thanks to their bravery and sacrifice, we understand why the love of freedom so evident in Tahrir Square has spread to Bahrain, Libya, and even Iran and China, setting oligarchs and dictators from Beijing to Belarus trembling.

While images of the demonstrations in Tahrir Square still linger in our minds, signs have already begun to appear of a response by the Egyptian military - now openly in charge - that is far less than what the people who have dared so much deserve. There are signals that the country's military leaders hope to give the appearance of reform, while safeguarding their hold on economic and political power.

Constitutions play a critical part in revolutions, nowhere more than in Egypt after the miracle of Tahrir Square. The new political order defined by a constitution is what provides the final test of a revolution, not the breathtaking pageantry of demonstrations and martyrdom. The freedom born in Tahrir Square, the nationwide participation in self-government, and the collective rejection of corruption and misrule all deserve to be enshrined in a new constitution that is drafted by the people, not merely for the people.

How to draft a constitution: six steps for the Middle East

Only a constitution written in convention by delegates chosen by the entire Egyptian people through free and internationally supervised elections can assure the continuation of the freedoms that were recovered in Tahrir Square. Only such a constitution can change the freedom won by the protesters from a conditional grant by powerful Egyptian military officers into a universal human right, enjoyed by every Egyptian because he or she is human.

Weak reforms, weak freedom

It seems that the timidity of Egypt's military rulers - their fears of losing power, wealth, and privilege - are threatening to turn the country away from what could have been, and still might be, a truly new beginning. Instead of a new order, a commission of experts and their military overseers have proposed constitutional amendments that may return Egypt to the same sad condition of the past, no doubt with some alterations around the edges.

For example: Although it is surely a good thing to widen eligibility for the presidency, and to limit an incumbent to two terms, no change is proposed to the current restrictions on establishing new parties. …

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