If the referendum on Egypt’s new constitution goes ahead as planned on 15 December and wins a majority, it will mark a political victory for President Mohamed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood. It would also come at a considerable cost in lives lost and property damaged since his 22 November constitutional declaration paved the way for fast-track approval of the draft constitution. More fundamentally, it has confirmed non-Islamists’ belief that the Brotherhood aims to establish a new authoritarian state system and one based on imposing the MB version of Sharia (Islamic law) on all aspects of society.
The uproar caused by President Mohamed Mursi’s declaration of full powers on 22 November threatens Egypt’s efforts to mobilise funds from the International Monetary Fund and other donors to lay the basis for economic recovery.
Many of the post-revolution politicians are gaining a reputation for fiddling while parts of Tunisia burn. Riots in late November and early December in Siliana saw over 250 protestors and 72 police injured. This provided a bitter reminder that the problems that triggered the Jasmine Revolution in January 2011 have not been resolved. The economy is stagnant, with several key sectors contracting, and living conditions for many people are getting worse. Daily demonstrations in Tunis underline the growing discontent with the coalition. Led by the Islamist Hizb Ennahda, it includes the Congrès pour la république (CPR), led by interim President Moncef Marzouki, and Mustapha Ben Jaafar’s Ettakol/Forum démocratique pour le travail et les libertés.
Having departed from the overly ambitious roadmap set out in 2011’s Constitutional Declaration, Libya’s elected representatives cannot decide on a replacement and are mired in indecision. The consequence is that federalist parties (those wanting central government to be weak and the provinces to be strong) and Islamists are becoming more influential than the discredited central government. The governing structures cannot so far overcome internal divisions and security threats, which are growing as a result.