The alarming message of Egypt’s constitutional amendments

The alarming message of Egypt’s constitutional amendments

Translations: AR  

This article was updated on 18 February 2019 to correct an error in the CPI score for Egypt

Parliamentarians in Egypt look set to approve a series of constitutional amendments this week that, if passed, would consolidate power in the office of the president, while restoring the military as the ultimate authority in the country.

The changes appear to be the nail in the coffin of what fragile democratic gains have survived since the Tahrir Square revolution of 2011. Transparency International believes the Egyptian government is sending an alarming message for anti-corruption efforts in the country and setting a worrying precedent for the region.

Reversion to authoritarian rule

The proposed amendments would extend presidential terms from four to six years, and allow the current president, Abel Fattah el-Sisi, to stand for another two terms, potentially staying in power until 2034. President Sisi is currently due to step down in 2022. The changes contradict statements the President made in November 2017. “We will not interfere with (the constitution) ... I am with preserving two four-year terms,” Reuters quoted him as saying at the time.

A long presidency is not in itself a recipe for corrupt rule. However, the lack of oversight and checks on presidential power in Egypt, and the absence of free and fair elections, greatly increases the risk of these amendments resulting in state capture and kleptocracy. Last year’s elections in Egypt were marred by government suppression of monitoring efforts, and President Sisi’s time in office has been characterized by a crackdown on dissenting voices.

As we recently highlighted in the Corruption Perceptions Index, the successful control of corruption is closely linked to the health of democracies. Egypt scored just 35 out of 100 on this year’s index, well below the global average of 43. By sliding back towards authoritarianism, Egypt is weakening its ability to control public sector corruption, and corruption undermines virtually all other aspects of political, economic and human development.

The proposed amendments would also undermine the rule of law and oversight over executive authority. The military would become “guardian of the state” according to former interim vice president, Mohamed el-Baradaei. The changes would remove the National Media Authority. 

The importance of democratic institutions such as a free media and independent judiciary for fighting corruption is clear. Consolidating power in the presidency will do little to promote stability and development in Egypt, as the proponents of the amendments have claimed.

Regional influence

As well as being one of the largest and most strategically significant countries in its region, Egypt currently chairs the African Union and hosts the Arab League.

Kinda Hattar, Regional Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa at Transparency International said: “As one of the major strategic countries in our region, what happens in Egypt sets an important example. These constitutional amendments could set off a domino effect that would undermine the fight against corruption well beyond Egypt.”   

If approved by parliament and a legislative committee, the amendments will be put to a referendum, which unfortunately offers little guarantee of the people’s voice being heard.

To effectively enhance stability and promote development in Egypt, Transparency International urges the parliament to strengthen and protect political rights and commit to democratic governance and rule of law, in line with commitments made under the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Image: Creative Commons, Flickr, Alisdare Hickson. A boy confronts Egyptian military police in Cairo during protests against the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarek in December 2011. 

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

Latest

Support Transparency International

The terrible consequences of police corruption in South Africa

What do we do when those mandated to protect us are serving other interests than public safety and security? In South Africa, police corruption leaves the public exposed to high rates of crime, and causes distrust of the police service while allowing crime to flourish.

Why do DRC citizens report such high levels of corruption?

People's experiences with corruption in the DRC are far worse than in most other African countries. Why is corruption so prevalent in the DRC, why is bribery so commonplace and why do two thirds of citizens feel powerless?

Is Mauritius at a tipping point in the fight against corruption?

According to the latest GCB for Africa, very few Mauritians who accessed public services, like health care and education, had to pay a bribe for those services. But given recent scandals, citizens still see certain groups and institutions as corrupt.

Countries must be more transparent when investigating transnational corruption

Supervisory and justice systems should be transparent and accountable so that the public can assess their performance.

Resilient institutions

Reducing corruption is an important component of the sustainable development agenda, and one that all state parties have an obligation to address. Although corruption is often thought of as a ‘third-world problem’, institutions in the Global North play an important role in the corruption cycle, and are therefore an essential part of the solutions.

In whose interest? Political integrity and corruption in Africa

What accounts for the wide disparity in peoples’ perceptions of the integrity of elected representatives in different countries? In this piece, we will to look at various forms of political corruption, how they manifest in African countries and what can be done to promote political integrity.

Cidadãos opinam sobre a corrupção em África

A décima edição do Barómetro Global de Corrupção (GCB) – África revela que embora a maioria das pessoas na África acreditem que os níveis de corrupção aumentaram no seu país, elas também se sentem otimistas, pois acreditam que os cidadãos podem fazer a diferença no combate à corrupção.

Les citoyens africains expriment leur opinion sur la corruption

La 10e édition du Baromètre mondial de la corruption – Afrique révèle que la plupart des Africains pensent que la corruption a augmenté dans leur pays, mais aussi que la majorité d’entre eux s’estiment capables, en tant que citoyens, de changer la donne dans la lutte contre la corruption.

Global Corruption Barometer - Africa 2019

The Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Africa reveals that more than half of all citizens surveyed in 35 African countries think corruption is getting worse in their country. 59 per cent of people think their government is doing badly at tackling corruption.

Citizens speak out about corruption in Africa

The Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Africa, reveals that while most people in Africa feel corruption increased in their country, a majority also feel optimistic that they can make a difference in the fight against corruption.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media