Egypt's new constitution is another step back towards authoritarianism

For a constitution to be effective it must command general consent, however grudging, and be seen as likely to actually constrain and define the political game. Egypt’s 2012 constitution failed to deliver that stability in part because of ousted President Mohamed Morsi’s power grab, by which he forced through the document without the consent of significant portions of the state and society. That failure paved the way for the escalation of the crippling institutional conflicts between Morsi, the courts, and the military — as well as the popular support for the June 30 protests, another extra-constitutional political gambit which tossed out any sense of institutional stability.

The July military coup magnifies the intensity of this problem, however, and may have made it almost impossible to overcome. The precedent has now been firmly established that the military will step in if it does not approve of the direction in which politics is heading. No promises to avoid future such interventions can possibly be made credible, regardless of what the constitution says. This effect will take decades to wear off, which means that the pathologies of uncertainty, unaccountability and unpredictability will continue to afflict Egyptian politics. Political actors will constantly have to be looking over their shoulders in fear of a military overthrow, which will be a defining context of their strategies and actions…

The military’s relentless “war on terror” against the Muslim Brotherhood and the campaign of arrests against journalists and activists makes Egypt’s future look even bleaker.