In platforms, presidential candidates reassure on rights and liberties

One of the central demands of the 25 January revolution was for a government that respects civil liberties, unlike the decades of repressive governance that came before. In their electoral platforms, all of the leading presidential candidates are eager to demonstrate that they are committed to fulfilling this demand in their own way.

While there are concerns from some quarters about how Islamists might restrict women’s and minorities’ rights, or that members of the former regime may be happy to perpetuate the police state tactics of Hosni Mubarak’s era, all candidates claim in their platforms that they want to eradicate the previous repression and protect civil rights.

Muslim Brotherhood nominee Mohamed Morsy writes in his program, presented alongside the Brotherhood’s “Renaissance Project” manifesto, that “Freedom is a gift from God” and “the main goal of Sharia.” He advocates the protection of rights as described in Sharia.

“I will work to guarantee the liberties and fundamental rights of all Egyptians within a framework of fundamental religious values and in addition to the social and political rights, without which rights cannot be exercised and societies cannot progress,” the program convolutedly says.

Citizenship and equality are recurring themes in all the candidates’ programs. For Morsy, citizenship means “full equality and full participation in rights and duties and religious matters being decided by personal status laws.”

Women must be encouraged to take part in public life, Morsy’s program also says.

The Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh campaign is marketing the ex-Brotherhood member as a consensus candidate and has made great play of the varied political backgrounds of his supporters.

Civil liberties form the second “pivot” of Abouel Fotouh’s “Strong Egypt” program and are bundled together with “activation” of civil society.

Ensuring respect for civil, economic and social rights cannot happen in the absence of a strong, independent and active civil society, and democracy is incomplete without trade unions and collectives defending its members’ rights, the program states.

The program also states the importance of media freedom and the right to creativity. It proposes abolishing the Information Ministry and replacing it with a supervisory body representing media employees and NGOs. The Information Ministry has long been accused of manipulating public opinion at the behest of its superiors.

Abouel Fotouh advocates the abrogation of a raft of laws, including the Emergency Law, which gives the executive branch sweeping powers in the name of security, and the press law, which allows journalists to be imprisoned.

He supports a review of the labor law and existing legislation on political party formation, as well as amendment of the NGOs law with the aim of preventing executive interference in civil society work.

Abouel Fotouh advocates the creation of an environment that allows women to participate fully in all areas of society and revision of any laws that limit women’s “hidden powers” in society.

In his “Rebuilding Egypt” program, former Arab League head Amr Moussa opens his program with a focus on “achieving security for citizens and restoring their sense of safety” — a clear vote-winner with Egyptians frustrated at the lax security situation following the revolution. Moussa tempers this strongman talk with a promise that this will be “built on a new formula that does not trade off the rule of law with the protection of citizens’ right, freedoms and dignity [via comprehensive restructuring of the Interior Ministry].”

Moussa advocates the immediate ending of the state of emergency, comprehensive reform of labor laws and expanding the current definition of the crime of torture to include any use of force.

Unlicensed churches must be made legal, Moussa says, and all forms of discrimination against Christians, including appointment to public office, ended.

Moussa also advocates the establishment of a Commission on Truth and Equality to investigate human rights violations by the previous regime.

Immediate measures must be taken to help low-income, working women, including extending social security coverage to widows and divorcees that would also cover women without a permanent source of income who are the sole providers for their families, the program states.

Predictably, there is a strong focus on workers’ rights in the platform of labor lawyer Khaled Ali.

The program supports the establishment of strong, independent trade unions. It also puts forward measures to protect the rights of farmers, fishermen and day laborers.

In other areas, Ali advocates temporary positive discrimination measures to increase the number of women in public life, and a law against harassment in the workplace.

Female victims of violence must be provided with psychiatric rehabilitation, emergency contraception and sexually transmitted diseases testing, the program states.

Hamdeen Sabbahi, a Nasserist candidate, describes freedom of belief, opinion and expression, the right to protest, the right to strike, the right to form parties, and freedom of the media and a free civil society as the cornerstones of the civil liberties that underpin his vision of the “Third Republic.”

Sabbahi describes social and economic rights as the foundation of social justice and describes eight rights that form the core of his program: the rights to food, housing, healthcare, education, work, a fair wage, social insurance and a clean environment.

Former air force officer Ahmed Shafiq, who served as Mubarak’s last prime minister, opens his program with reference to the demands for bread, justice, freedom and dignity, the main demands of the revolution. Shafiq promises to strive to realize these demands.

His platform says he has a vision of a “developed democratic” society created through a new constitution affirming the secular nature of the state and the principles of citizenship, equality, freedom of belief and worship.

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