This post is in large measure a summary of yesterday's discussion hosted by Tamara Cofman Wittes, Director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, with Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Saban Center, and Shadi Hamid, Director of Research at Brookings Doha. I am indebted to the Brookings Institution for much of what follows but my own opinions are injected along the way.
What sort of government is created with this constitution? The House of Representatives and a Senate called the Shura Council constitute a bicameral parliament to act as a check on the powers of the president. The president appoints the prime minister as a proxy. Therefore the president has overweening power, as it was in the evil days of Mubarak.
There is a judiciary but it has little power to challenge the president and is deeply conservative. With the advent of shari'a law as the basis for the constitution, Al Azhar University becomes the ulama, with the unprecedented and vaguely defined power to review legislation, as described in Article 4 of the new constitution.
This constitution is stillborn. For all its windy trash about political and partisan plurality, the rule of law, respect to human rights, guarantee of rights and freedoms, peaceful rotation of power, etc. --the Egyptian constitution hasn't even defined the electoral process. It exempts the military from any oversight. It has created a religious state for all intents and purposes.
This constitution won't last more than a few years. The current referendum isn't about constitution: it is a plebiscite on Mohamed Mursi. America might not have a large role to play in all this but mostly we ought to hold true to democratic ideals and not doing our usual Deals with Devils We Know.