Eleven days before he finally resigned, Hosni Mubarak may have had a chance to reverse his fortunes. Suddenly filled with a spirit of peace-making and reconciliation, the president offered up a smorgasbord of "reforms" he promised to make.
Among them was amending several articles of the Egyptian Constitution. Calls for these amendments had been going on for years. So central were they to the political well-being of the Egyptian people, that foreign powers -- principally the United States --had intervened privately and publicly -- to persuade its most dependable Middle East ally to actually get something done.
But it was too late. The crowd in Tahrir Square didn't believe their President. They had heard it all before. Mubarak was through.
So, days later, the task of re-writing the Constitutional amendments fell to a committee appointed by the Military Panel now governing Egypt.
Why is this important? Because over the years, the Mubarak regime created amendments to the Constitution. Their purpose was to make it virtually impossible to become a candidate, become a recognized political party, and have competent and independent monitoring of all elections.
Writing these new Constitutional articles is a modest assignment. The committee is not mandated to rewrite the entire Constitution; that may come later. But the Committee's work is nonetheless critical. For it will be addressing the articles that, more than any others, have promulgated one-man rule in Egypt, kept the opposition from forming legal political parties, and thus effectively marginalized all candidates not named Mubarak.
The committee will work to be responsive to the leaders of the Tahrir Square opposition. They want the constitutional changes to reflect clearer separation of powers, strengthening of an independent judiciary, and less power for the president. That won't all happen by writing a few amendments, but it's a start.
And unless the committee finishes its work and the public votes "yes' in a scheduled April referendum, it will be impossible to hold a presidential election in November.
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