Egypt since the revolution

Published on Al Jazeera, by Gregg Carlstrom and Evan Hill, January 4, 2012.

… Suspend the constitution and prepare a new one:

The drafting of a new constitution has been one of the most divisive issues for the activists who sparked Egypt’s revolution. On paper, things seem to be moving in the right direction. The old constitution was suspended on February 13, the same day SCAF dissolved parliament, and the generals quickly moved to prepare a package of constitutional amendments, which was overwhelmingly approved by a public referendum on March 19.  

After the NDP faced its one significant challenge, during the 2005 parliamentary election, Mubarak amended the constitution and made other changes to electoral laws. The result was a 2010 poll which human rights groups dubbed the “most fraudulent election ever.”

Egypt’s interim rulers have taken meaningful steps to level the playing field. One of the constitutional amendments approved in March did away with the most onerous provisions of article 76, which had made it nearly impossible for independent candidates to run for president.

The SCAF-approved changes also reinstated full judicial oversight of elections, which Mubarak abolished in 2007, and limited presidents to two four-year terms (instead of an unlimited number of six-year terms).

The High Election Commission, rather than the interior ministry, now administers the polls. And Egyptians are now allowed to vote using their national ID cards, rather than voting cards, which the regime often used as a tool for fraud and disenfranchisement.

Hold free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections: … //

… Improve the country’s economic position:

A strong desire for social justice helped to fuel the revolution, but despite a few positive steps, most Egyptians still find themselves in dire circumstances – half the country lives on just $2 per day – and the macroeconomic picture is far worse than it was before the revolution.

The interim government has made a few changes to improve standards of living. In July, it raised the minimum wage for public-sector employees to 700 Egyptian pounds ($116) per month; the previous level was an unbelievable 35 pounds ($6) per month, a figure unchanged since 1984.

In September it awarded the same rights to private-sector workers, their first-ever minimum wage in Egypt.

The corporate income tax has also been raised, and the government will boost its spending this year on subsidies which cover everything from bread to gasoline.

But the overall picture is of an economy in free-fall. Egypt’s foreign-currency reserves have fallen every month since the revolution; the central bank now holds about $18bn, down from $36bn in January 2011. Tourism revenues plunged by 30 per cent last year, pulling $3.7bn out of the Egyptian economy, according to official statistics – and Egyptians who work in the tourism field say those numbers are probably too optimistic.

Many Egyptians are predicting an imminent collapse in the value of the pound, already trading at more than 6 on the dollar, its lowest level in seven years.

The country also continues to face crippling fuel shortages. The government has struggled to explain why many petrol stations in Cairo have run out of gasoline. And violent protests have erupted over shortages of the subsidised butane cylinders many Egyptians use for cooking. The official price is 5 pounds ($0.82), but black marketeers have been buying up the cylinders and reselling them for as much as 40 pounds ($6.60). (full long text).

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