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Egyptian Military Pushes Ahead With New Constitution Plans


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm David Greene. Good morning. In Egypt, the interim president and the generals who brought him to power are pushing ahead with what they say is a plan for a new constitution and elections. This is supposed to be a transition to some kind of real civilian rule. But it's already raising a lot of doubts about the intentions of the military. We've reached NPR's Leila Fadel in Cairo for the latest. Leila, good morning.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So tell us, what does this roadmap look like that was proposed?

FADEL: Well, basically this declaration maps out a timeline. They have talked about amending the now-suspended constitution within four and a half months and then moving into parliamentary elections sometime early next year. And after the parliamentary elections, then presidential elections.

GREENE: What's been the reaction so far? I gather there was a lot of outcry as soon as it was proposed.

FADEL: Yes. And actually what's interesting is it's a cross section of political figures - liberals, leftists, secular political figures, Islamists - all saying we weren't consulted enough. They complain about issues of human rights. In some cases they say it's too Islamist-leaning. So we're seeing quite a lot of criticism and a sign of just how fragile the alliance of groups that are backing the military move is.

GREENE: It sounds like, Leila, this process is bringing out many of the divisions and criticisms that we've seen in Egypt for a very long time.

FADEL: That's right. I mean, I think what was uniting so many people with completely different ideologies - when it comes to economy, when it comes to the role of religion in the state, when it comes to human rights issues - all of those people united against Morsi's leadership. But now that Morsi is gone, already we're seeing the cracks among these people who are united by that one rejection.

And that will be the concern going forward. Will people be able to agree on amendments to the constitution? Will people be able to agree to accept the results of the next election?

GREENE: And, Leila, I have to ask. I mean, is there a feeling of déjà vu in Egypt? We saw, after Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 a plan to go forward, a plan to go forward, a new constitution, how we're going to hold elections. I mean, this sounds very familiar in a way.

FADEL: Yeah. Actually, in some ways it is a very similar feeling. Now in this case an elected leader ousted, also backed by millions of people in the streets. But the military seems squarely in control of the state and all of the moves towards elections in the hopes that Egypt would become a stable democracy are now having to start again.

GREENE: Well, are there doubts about Egypt ever becoming a stable democracy, if we have the military basically undoing what was seen as a democratic election and starting over?

FADEL: I think there are concerns. There are lots of Egyptians who really feel that this was the only way to save Egypt, as they say, from a leader they feel was not right for this country, who repressed human rights. But also, looking at this as an observer, and a lot of analysts we've talked to are very concerned that it's a sign also that the military will never really step back from power.

GREENE: Another concern going forward - violence, which we've heard a lot about in the last few days. Have things settled down, for now, in the streets of Cairo?

FADEL: Well, Monday was one of the most bloody days since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 - 55 people killed in clashes between the military and police and Muslim Brotherhood supporters, described as a massacre by Muslim Brotherhood leaders. We haven't seen much violence since, but this country is more polarized than we've ever seen in the last two and a half years, people on both sides accusing the other of starting the violence, accusing the other of trying to destroy the state.

And there's a lot of concern, going forward, that we'll see more violence as this rhetoric continues.

GREENE: All right. We've been talking to NPR's Leila Fadel in Cairo about the ongoing political crisis in Egypt. Leila, thank you.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.

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