By the time Egyptians finally seized their right to democracy, many nations had already matured out of it and were trying to find the best solution to a new global challenge: vetocracy. In a vetocracy, everybody is empowered, through technology and other tools, to mobilize groups. Each group is big enough to exercise veto powers, while no group is big enough to represent all of us, the people. The challenge lies in the fact that with such a system the state could be paralyzed by the veto power of special interest groups powerful enough to freeze government. A deadlock could make it difficult for a government to enforce the law; this means the state must rethink its modus operandi, particularly vis-à-vis law enforcement. The old ways will simply not work, even in a place like Egypt.
Today, Egyptians own and use the same tools as every other vetocratic nation, and are progressing much faster than their government, which is still trying, very poorly and slowly, to adapt to the soon-irrelevant model of democracy. It is paramount for Egypt’s new constitution to reflect the new reality, before the state becomes irrelevant.
In a vetocratic society, we have the power not only to break the law but to ignore it. Ignoring the law is extremely dangerous, because it risks much more than state failure — it risks state irrelevance. A healthy government today must therefore recognize that it is weaker than any of its constituents and make law enforcement secondary to law attractiveness. Then everyone willfully chooses to obey to the rule of law.
The committee of 50 that is currently drafting the Egyptian constitution do not recognize these new challenges. They operate in a sclerotic political economy, still debating how to cater to representative democracy and civil liberties while preserving the stakes of dominant stakeholders, such as the military, judiciary, Al-Azhar and the Church. The committee of 50 is resorting to a false harmony and fragile inclusion, with no guiding philosophy except the avoidance of necessary confrontation and debate.
Egypt Parallel Constitution is a draft constitution initiative, motivated to transform the evident vetocracy of our nation into an opportunity to enfranchise all Egyptians with their rich diversity, empowered by accountable institutions. As such, Egypt Parallel Constitution is an alternative draft constitution aiming to resuscitate the Egyptian state.
Our taskforce was founded by a few Egyptians in Washington DC, but soon included members from everywhere. It comprises Egyptian experts specialized in various applications of public policy, civil society, business, media and hard sciences, who advocate the interests of the real use of the constitution as a social contract between the citizen and the state. We recognize that we have not been delegated to represent the majority, and we find this a core strength, because our philosophy is not guided by who we are or what we represent, but by the extent to which we bring Egyptians and their institutions to a common denominator without exclusion, while being bold enough to seize the future. We commit to nine guiding principles that summarize this philosophy.
1. Sovereignty is of the people alone. Power shall be consolidated bottom-up from the grassroots to the upper echelons of the Egyptian state. We find the best mechanism to achieve this is through complete legislative, administrative and fiscal decentralization, rather than simple delegation of limited responsibilities. To ensure that legislative reference does not compromise this sovereignty, we proactively made the inevitable decision to eliminate any authority other than that of the people in the legislation of this constitution. Legislative references must be as responsive and vibrant as any individual’s conscience, and this must be reflected in the laws that emerge from them.
2. The constitution is a vision for the future and not a portrayal of the status quo with its imperfections. Our constitution must therefore respond to the changing environment and its tools of production and communication that shape the future and shift the comparative strengths of various constituencies of our nation.
3. Checks and balances. This constitution establishes checks and balances among the three powers of the state for the sake of a healthier democracy and stronger nation.
4. Actionable legal language. This constitution eliminates any ornate language that is not actionable and cannot be translated into law or practice. This is an essential first remedy to the corrosion of the rule of law and eventual state failure. Consequently, this constitution is thus disinterested in defining an identity for Egypt, be that Arab or Egyptian, secular or religious, etc. Egypt is only defined by its people: an independent state with full sovereignty and its people is the source of all powers.
5. Practice overrides identity. Practices may be prohibited, but not the existence of identities or ideas. Prohibited practices are those that benefit specific communities or deny benefits to others.
6. Public order is vested not in stability, but in promoting human advancement which in turn brings stability. Promoting human advancement therefore calls for the change of the status quo for the better and not plaguing it in hope to preserve stability. Therefore, each and every State institution shall be committed to this principle in organizing its bylaws and external relations with citizens.
7. The state treats all citizens as equal. The state shall establish or fund no institution whose mission or services or admission requirements discriminate among citizens, and no such institution shall benefit from the state in any way, including but not limited to getting tax breaks or revenues. In addition, this constitution is committed to empowering minorities that do not enjoy adequate representation in public life. These minorities shall enjoy the right to expression and representation in formal affairs of the state, including but not limited to practicing local governance using their indigenous languages and values, and contributing to the enrichment of our national cultural heritage.
8. The rights and freedoms set forth in this constitution are unalienable, and are not granted by the state. As such, each entity and person shall be responsible for respecting these rights and freedoms and for facilitating fellow citizens’ access to them by order of the social contract. The state shall have no authority to grant or prevent any of these rights or freedoms, but is only concerned with facilitating the rules and ensuring the provision of necessary public resources for citizens to access such rights. The state shall also prevent or punish any aggression or infringement on such rights and freedoms by order of its monopoly over legitimate use of force.
9. National security is a sovereign matter that affects national wealth. As with national currency, a state exhibits good governance by limiting the supply and usage of national security practices, to protect that tool from inflation and loss of intrinsic value. To that end, the state shall take a proactive approach to promote greater freedoms that increase interactive social practices in the public domain, in order to minimize shocks and disruptions that require its forceful intervention.
There is no place in our political world for late learners and our constitution should reflect this reality. Let’s not be stubborn enough to make Egypt ungovernable, let’s not be short-sighted enough to deem our state irrelevant.