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Young activists keen to oversee new constitution in Egypt

According to state television, 365 people are now thought to have lost their lives during the recent unrest in Egypt which lead to the resignation of President Mubarak.

As the military authorities try to restore law and order, young demonstrators are still desperate to make their voices heard. Pro-democracy leaders have called for one million people to come out on the streets this Friday in a ‘Victory March’, intended as both a celebration and a reminder to the generals of the powerful desire for change still running through the people.

Egypt’s Higher Military Council, which is currently ruling the country, has dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution. A committee of legal experts has been appointed by the Military to discuss amendments to the constitution and is being led by a respected independent judge. This Constitutional Amendment Committee is expected to put forward changes such as limiting presidential terms of office and a new process for fair elections. There would then be a national referendum on the Committee’s proposals before any parliamentary or presidential elections took place.

However some reformers believe the old constitution should be scrapped entirely and a new one put forward by civil society groups. One group of protestors have formed their own ‘Council of Trustees’ to look into the constitution and new governance. The Trustees have appointed their own 19-member council, made up of a range of public figures such as politicians, judges, academics, authors and reporters. Other public groups are also being formed, including one called the ‘Coordinating Committee for the Masses of the Revolution’ as activists respond to events. One group of political reformers has raised the issue of female representation, since the Constitutional Amendment Committee does not include any women judges or experts. Activists called on the Military Council to revise the make-up of the Committee to include women.

Outside Egypt, the United Nations (UN) has offered experts who could help the Military authorities map a transition to democracy. Navi Pillay, Human Rights Chief at the UN, confirmed experts had already been sent to Tunisia and the UN was waiting for a green light from Egypt for a similar mission there. Reuters reported the UN Director for Operations and Technical cooperation, Anders Kompass, noting the ‘enthusiasm of Egypt’s young people’ and warning how other forces could come into play “if [the young] are frustrated”.

As the Egyptian people wait to see what changes will be proposed, life is returning to normal in many areas, with prices starting to go down in shops as supplies get through to the cities. But in certain regions, protests and strikes over pay and working conditions are still being organised by unions. These have lead to more closures of institutions such as banks and schools in some areas. The BBC also reports that some families are still waiting for news of relatives who went missing during the protests, as opposition leaders continue to call for the immediate release of political prisoners and the lifting of emergency laws.

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