IT is true that the changes proposed to be made in the Egyptian constitution will be put to a referendum, but must the military-backed interim cabinet divert its — and the nation’s — attention from the principal issue? The principal issue is Egypt’s quick return to democracy through a transparent election at the earliest. All other considerations are of secondary importance, and that’s where the government headed by President Adly Mansour has its priorities wrong. The constitution now sought to be amended was largely the work of the government headed by ex-president Mohammed Morsi. Even though the constitution was controversial, it had been approved by a referendum in December 2010. However, the Morsi government backed by the Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown by the army following widespread dem-onstrations. Since then Mr Morsi has been under arrest, leading Brotherhood members are in detention, and Morsi supporters have continued their demonstrations to vent their anger on the army for its overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president. The disturbances have led to several deaths since the July 3 coup.

In a speech on Saturday, Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi called for national reconciliation through a dialogue among all political parties. However, the Brotherhood has rejected the talks’ offer and pledged to continue its agitation. As time passes, the polarisation is likely to worsen, as some liberal political parties have also refused to collaborate with the generals. The army high command must realise it subverted the democratic process simply because there were anti-Morsi demonstrations. As the history of many countries, including Pakistan, shows, the intensity of street violence is no indication of majority opinion. If there are any deficiencies in the constitution which have to be removed, it should be left to the freely elected parliament to amend the basic law.

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