Egypt's draft constitution protects the autonomy of the country's military. / AP
Egypt's military government is pushing forward with a new constitution to replace one that was rammed through by Islamists, leading to massive street demonstrations and the ouster of the elected Muslim Brotherhood government.
But whether it will be met with a better reception by Egyptians is in question.
Some say the new document, to be voted on in a national referendum in January, reflects the will of the secular and military coalition that overthrew the government in July. The draft appears to enshrine the military as the nation's most powerful institution while at the same time removing parts that liberals said would lead to an Islamic state.
But there is doubt that it can bring stability without support from some of the very Islamists and their supporters that it seeks to sideline.
"This is a regime that's still consolidating itself," said Eric Trager, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "The military is playing a role in guiding policy against the Muslim Brotherhood, which it views as an existential threat."
Egypt's Islamists and the Muslim Brothers in particular remain a potent political force despite the fact that its leaders have been jailed, says Michael Hanna, an analyst at the Century Foundation.
The now-banned Brotherhood is still probably the biggest "coherent block" on Egypt's fragmented political scene, which is made up of numerous smaller parties, Hanna said. "It's hard to imagine normal politics with the largest Islamist party being excluded."
The draft constitution, which overturns one forced through parliament a year ago by former president Mohammed Morsi, bans religious parties, protects the autonomy of the country's military and retains provisions for military trials of civilians that U.S. officials have criticized in the past.
The U.S. State Department has said it is still evaluating the document and had no comment on it.
In October, the State Department suspended $260 million of Egypt's $1.5 billion in annual U.S. assistance, citing the military overthrow. State said it would reinstate the payments after the country holds new elections.
The new draft is a precursor to those elections, says the military. It protects the rights of Christians, Jews and Muslims and removes a controversial article of the Morsi constitution that specified the sources of sharia law that would serve as the basis for Egyptian law.
Article 219 in the constitution passed under Morsi defined the sources of sharia law so narrowly that it was widely regarded as "institutionalized theocracy," Trager said. With that removed, however, it is now unclear whether Egypt's powerful Islamist factions will support the draft, he said.
Brotherhood leaders still free in Egypt are unsure whether they will push a boycott of the draft constitution or organize a "no" vote, Trager said.
The Nour party, which represents the Salafi Islamists who support an Islamic theocracy, participated in the drafting of the new constitution but their leaders may not be able to marshal the support of their rank and file, Trager said.
"There's evidence the rank and file won't support the new constitution," Trager said, citing a recent conversation with a Nour party member of parliament.
Islamist support for the draft may be key to Egypt's long-term stability and the economic development that several waves of protesters have demanded since the overthrow of former dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Hanna says.
Since the overthrow of their government, the Brotherhood has led smaller protests that have been disruptive, Hanna said. The protests have been accompanied by violent terrorism that the military says are linked to the Brotherhood. Hanna says the terrorists are sympathetic jihadi forces that the Brotherhood does not control.
Meanwhile, Egyptians complain daily about the poor economy, lack of jobs and income, another reason the Brotherhood was opposed in demonstrations.
Hanna said that and stability overall will depend on how much support the new constitution receives in a referendum and whether the vote is seen as fair.
"Security and civility is key to a good international business environment," Hanna said. "If those things don't change, most capital is not going to flow to Egypt."
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