On 14 November 2012, Mona El-Ghobashy led a discussion at the Constitutional Transitions Colloquium on the latest dynamics emerging in Egypt’s constitutional process. El-Ghobashy, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, has closely monitored the evolution of the draft Egyptian constitution. Her presentation synthesized these real-time developments into an analysis of how executive power in Egypt is being transformed, and offered a prediction on the role the executive will play in post-revolutionary Egypt. She focused particular attention on the powerful position maintained for the president, especially in relation to parliament, and on the recent withdrawal of Egypt’s military from a more prominent executive role.
In her presentation, El-Ghobashy noted that both the Western and Egyptian media have described the process in dramatized terms, often depicting it as a clash between Islamist forces and their rivals, and recognized that this perception is reinforced by the political grandstanding of actors involved in the process. Nevertheless, she reaffirmed her position that the lasting significance of Egypt’s constitutional transition will be more prosaic, best understood as a grand bargain reached through compromises and concessions of the leading political groups.
El-Ghobashy’s central point was the constitutional process is an arena for political actors to protect their interests and influence in the new constitutional order that is slowly emerging in Egypt. In this light, she cautioned against essentializing or, in her words, “pathologizing” the process as a contest between simplified dichotomies: modernism vs. atavism, Islamism vs. secular nationalism or, worse, as a moral contest of good against bad.