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Running Battles Over Fundamental Rights in North Africa

Protests north Africa
Women’s Rights have been dealt a blow in Egypt

AFRICANGLOBE – Liberals, theocrats and soldiers in Egypt and Tunisia are fighting running battles over the rights and privileges they can enshrine in their founding political texts.

Two parties who joined Islamist party Ennahda in the ruling troïka in Tunisia – Ettakatol and the Congrès pour la République – may have lost their legitimacy in the eyes of liberal Tunisians, but they struck out proposed constitutional clauses on blasphemy and limits on the role of women.

These fights are not over, but for now they have ruled out sharia as the basis for Tunisian law.

In Egypt, there are similar skirmishes over religion and women’s rights. But there is not enough attention on the military, government systems and decentralisation, according to Zaid Al-Ali, a constitutional adviser at the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

For example, Article 188 allows central government to override regional administrations if it is in the ‘national interest’.

Al-Ali arguesthat “constitutions in the region have granted rights that initially appear progressive but explicitly call for the law to regulate the manner in which those same rights are to be exercised.”

They should follow recent African and Latin American constitutions, which explicitly limit the power of the executive and legislature to restrict rights, he argues.

Egypt’s generals have also managed to protect their turf. Article 196 now includes a passage that allows military expenditure to be a single line in the budget, avoiding calls for greater transparency

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