Looking Into Egypt’s Constitutional Changes

I’ve been reading about how democracy would actually translate in Egypt, and whether the structure would suffice in the alleviation of socioeconomic disparity, which has largely characterized the brunt of problems leading to the revolution. Corruption definitely stands out as a central reason to gaping holes in per capita income, where people relied on bribes to survive a system that thrived on corporatism, nepotism and various other forms of wasta. There are calls from the street for a total rebuilding of the country from the inside out. The people want the whole old guard gone, the entire regime decapitated, the constitution re-written and not just re-drafted, and new infrastructure projects put in place to combat the high unemployment and poverty rates straddling the country.  This is obviously going to cause quite some trouble for the military powers whose own agenda pushes them towards taking measures to protect their interests, even when they conflict with the interests of the majority of the masses. There is hope however, as long as the revolutionary movements continue to clearly define and call for what they want.

How far to and for how long can the people push for their demands? Where is the line between government/the management of chaos, and true representation of the people’s needs? These are questions to be answered as the days go by, and almost every day I have a varying answer. In general however, the foundational truth remains that grave injustices have been committed against the people, and their plight represents that of scores of other Arabs who have suffocated under the kleptocracy of Arab regimes supported by foreign powers. I believe that is the central injustice that the people are fighting against, and that is the reason they wont back down.

For our records and for your interest, if you’re interested, here’s a breakdown of the constitutional changes being undertaken in Egypt at the moment:

The Constitutional Amendment Committee met with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces last week and handed over a report on proposed amendments to the Constitution on parliamentary and presidential elections and related articles, marking an end of the first phase of rebuilding through constitutional changes. Although the majority of those involved in the revolutionary movement believe that an entirely new constitution need to be put in place, the changes being undertaken by the council are still important to track, I believe. Sources close to the Committee to Amend the Constitution made it clear that the second phase would be to amend a number of complementary laws, namely “the political rights law, referendum and the People’s Assembly and Shura Council laws on the electoral process”, emphasizing that the political parties law is not among the laws amended by the Committee. These laws may be directly modified by a decree from the military council.

Ikhwanweb reviewed the amended articles. They are as follows:

Article 76: Terms and methods for president
In Article 76 President of the Republic shall be elected by direct public secret ballot. For candidature for presidency of the republic to be acceptable, a candidate should be supported by at least 250 elected members of the People’s Assembly, the Shura Council and Municipal Councils in governorates, provided that supporters be at least 65 members of the People’s Assembly, 25 members of the Shura Council and 10 members of each of the Municipal Councils of at least 14 governorates.
The number of supporters from the People’s Assembly, the Shura Council and the Municipal Councils of governorates shall be increased with a percentage equal to the number of any of those councils.
In all cases, supporting more than one candidate shall not be permissible.
The law shall organize the procedures of all these items, and political parties that completed fives continuous years before opening the door for candidature, practiced their activities ever since and won at least 3% of the seats of elected members in both the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council, may nominate one of the members of their supreme board in accordance with their standing orders, provided that a candidate has been a member of that board for a least one year.
As an exception to the provisions of the afore-mentioned paragraph, the previously mentioned political parties whose members obtained at least one seat in any of the People’s Assemblies or the Shura Council in the latest election may nominate in any presidential elections to be held within ten years starting from May 1, 2007, any member of its higher board, according to their own by-laws, provided he has been a member of such board for at least one consecutive year.
Applications for candidature shall be submitted to an independent committee called the “Committee on Presidential Elections”. This committee shall be presided over by the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court and comprise the head of the Cairo Court of Appeal, the first deputy chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, the first deputy chairman of the Court of Cassation, the first deputy chairman of the State Council and five public figures known for their impartiality, three of whom were selected for five years by the People’s Assembly and two by the Shura Council upon the proposal of the Bureau of each council. The law shall decide who replaces the committee chairman or any of its members in case of any hindering circumstances.
Amendments: The committee has also changed the criteria to run for presidency. According to the amended article, an independent candidate may run as long as they obtain 30,000 signatures from 12 governorates in Egypt or 150 signatures from members of Parliament or the Upper House with the abolition of any role for municipal councils.
The amendments also stipulate that any political party represented in Parliament can field candidates in the presidential elections.
Each political party has parliamentary representation (even if a seat) in the People’s Assembly and Shura Council to nominate one of its members for president, regardless of his position within the party. The Higher Committee for the presidential elections shall presided by the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court and comprise the head of the Cairo Court of Appeal, the first deputy chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, the first deputy chairman of the Court of Cassation, the first deputy chairman of the State Council, its judicial decisions shall be final and not subject to appeal.

Article 93: Parliament has the right to determine the legitimacy of its members and the Court of Cassation can investigate the appeals referred to it by the head of Parliament, which has to be referred to the court within 15 days and investigations finalized within 90 days. The results must be presented before Parliament which has the right to determine if the appeal is legitimate or not within 60 days.
Membership of a deputy (MP) cannot be nullified without the agreement of one-third of the members of Parliament.
Amendment: Parliament no longer has the right to determine whether membership of one of its deputies is valid or not and only the Court of Cassation has the right to do so. Implementation of the court’s ruling will be mandatory.

Article 189: The president and head of parliament can ask for amendments of articles in the Constitution provided they stipulate which articles need to be amended and why. If the request for amendment emerged from Parliament, it needs to have the support of at least one-third of its members. Parliament then discusses the amendments with its majority and if the request is rejected, a one-year period must pass before a second request is presented.If Parliament votes to amend the given article, it is discussed in Parliament two months after being approved. If one-third of Parliament agrees, then the changes are presented for public approval. If people agreed on the amendment, they are in effect by the date of announcing the referendum results.
Amendment:The right to propose amendments to the Constitution is also with the people. The third and fourth paragraphs were omitted. Details dealing with number and means to be covered by law.

Article 148: The president has the power to announce a state of emergency in the manner prescribed by the law. This announcement must be presented to Parliament within 15 days tot vote on its validity. The state of emergency can only be for a specific period and cannot be extended without the consent of Parliament.
Amendment: The state of emergency will be for six months only. The president will be asked to announce a state of emergency only after Parliament has approved the decision. The period can only be extended after a national referendum is held.

Article 151:The president of the country has the power to conclude treaties and then inform Parliament. Once the president concludes a treaty, it gains the power of law.
Amendment: No treaties can be concluded unless voted on by Parliament and it has the force of law once ratified.

Article 88: The law stipulates the conditions covering candidates for Parliament, voting and referendums. The elections take place over one day only and an independent high committee oversees the elections.
Amendment: An independent committee made up of court judges supervises the elections from the day the list of candidates is announced to the final results.
General Committees made up court judges as well. It can be used in supervising the sub-committees with members of other judicial bodies like a State Lawsuits Authority and Administrative Prosecution.

Article 77: The presidential term is six years beginning from the day the new president is announced and the president may be reelected for other terms.
Amendment: The presidential term is four years beginning from the day the new president is announced and the president can be elected for only one more term.

Article 190: The presidential term ends six years from the day the current president is officially announced as the country’s leader.
Amendment: The presidential term ends four years from the day the current president is officially announced as the country’s leader.

– Love in a Box


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