Constitutional scholar Neo in Daily Star: Rooting change in Egypt’s Constitution


Comparative constitutionalism scholar and RN affiliate Jaclyn Neo in an op-ed for The Daily Star  proposes that in order to meet the minimal (but not sufficient) conditions for a democratic state and institutionalize the goals of the Nile revolution, the Egyptian constitution should enshrine three core human rights principles – unamendable or to be altered only by super majority in a popular referendum – along with the citizen’s right to petition the courts. She notes that the disagreements surrounding the drafting of the constitution in Egypt ”obscure the core of the revolution that the constitution should be entrenching: the permanent transformation of the people from sectarian subjects into sovereign citizens.”




Rooting change in Egypt’s Constitution
December 04, 2012
Jaclyn L. Neo

In recent days, Egyptians have again poured onto the streets, to protest against Mohammad Mursi’s decree of Nov. 22 strengthening his presidential powers. It was almost two years ago that Egyptians congregated in Tahrir Square, to protest and topple President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year autocratic regime. The Egyptian revolution demonstrated a strength and spirit that captured the imagination of Egyptians and many around the world. Finally, the Arab Spring had arrived.

The recent protests and indeed the cause of the protests – a decree that sought to effectively insulate the president and the constituent assembly from judicial oversight – stemmed from the same discontent among Egyptians against authoritarian practices. The protests themselves were a manifestation of a deeper problem: the inability of the revolutionaries to agree on how to institutionalize the revolution.

Since the initial sense of camaraderie and optimism abated, Egyptians have not been able to agree on how the constitution should be drafted, much less on what principles should be included. The country was stuck in a constitution-making process marred by squabbling among constituent assembly members. The recent struggle between the president and his Islamist allies, on the one hand, and his liberal opponents and judges, on the other, was merely the tip of the iceberg. (continue reading)


Jaclyn L. Neo is a comparative constitutional scholar whose main research interest is in thecohabitation of constitutionalist democracy with public religion. She teaches at the National University of Singapore and is currently completing her JSD degree at Yale law school. This article is part of the work of Right to Nonviolence, a Beirut-based non-governmental organization,on constitutionalism in the Middle East revolution. She wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.


Previous post:

Next post: