THE approval of the new constitution by the Egyptian people, confirmed in the second round of the referendum on Saturday, hands yet another victory to President Mohamed Morsi and paves the way for the general election due in about two months’ time. The low turnout — alleged by the opposition to be 30 per cent — doesn’t serve to denigrate the importance of a 64 per cent ‘yes’ vote. What matters is Egypt’s gradual advance towards democracy after decades of authoritarian rule, even after the country became a republic in 1953. Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power about two years ago, but in this short period — despite some anxious moments, including the refusal of the old guard to quit — President Morsi has on the whole managed to control the situation. He has been tough where necessary and conciliatory where expediency so demanded. His sacking of Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi as supreme commander and defence minister and the dismissal of the three services chiefs strengthened his power and dealt a coup de grâce to the Mubarak remnants. His mistake was the decree that debarred courts from reviewing his actions. He, however, had the foresight to take it back when it evoked strong domestic and international criticism.
The National Salvation Front, a coalition of opposition parties, has now decided to fuse into one party and struggle by democratic means to amend the constitution. The opposition has reservations about the constitution because it has been crafted by an assembly dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Front says the constitution ignores the rights of Egypt’s Christians, who constitute 10 per cent of the population. There is no doubt the parliamentary elections will be a milestone in Egypt’s march towards freedom. A constitution is in place, and that should serve as the bedrock for the growth of democracy.