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Egypt's newly elected MPs vow to amend constitution

Many of Egypt's newly elected MPs that said they wish to amend the ‎constitution so that the president's one term in office can be ‎increased to more than four years

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 3 Nov 2015
Parliament
File Photo: Parliament (Photo: Al-Ahram)
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Candidates who won seats in the first stage of Egypt's ‎parliamentary elections began on Tuesday to obtain their ‎parliamentary membership cards and some of them have already revealed their intent to make some crucial ammendments to the 2014 Constitution. ‎

Out of 213 candidates who won seats in the first stage, ‎held between 17 and 28 October in 14 governorates, as ‎many as 60 candidates arrived at the headquarters ‎of the Egyptian lower house parliament - or the House ‎of Representatives - to obtain their parliamentary ‎membership cards.‎

Parliament's secretary-general Khaled Al-Sadr, a former ‎army general, told reporters that each MP would be ‎obliged to fill a special membership form, giving a ‎detailed statement about his personal life and career.‎

Al-Sadr also disclosed that for the first time each MP would ‎be granted an Ipad to help with keeping in regular ‎contact with the house's secretariat-general.

"An MP will ‎use this Ipad to have updated information about the ‎House's schedule of plenary and committee meetings ‎and send requests to the house's secretariat-general," ‎said Al-Sadr.‎

Egypt's new House of Representatives will comprise of 596 ‎MPs, meaning that the total cost of Ipads would reach ‎around LE2.5 million.‎

The new MPs who were ‎keen to receive their parliamentary ‎membership cards said that their first priority in ‎parliament is to amend the constitution so that the ‎president's term in office can be increased to more than ‎four years.‎

According to article 140 of Egypt's new constitution, ‎passed in January 2014, the president cannot stay in ‎office for more than two terms, with each one four years ‎or a total of eight years.‎

MP Shadi Abul-Ela, a former police officer who was ‎elected an independent in the upper Egypt governorate ‎of Al-Minya, told reporters that a president's one term ‎in office must be increased to five rather than four ‎years. "A term of four years in office is suitable for a ‎country like the United States but is bad for a country ‎like Egypt that is in desperate need of stability and a ‎forceful president," said Abul-Ela.‎

Abul-Ela stressed that his request does not aim to ‎serve incumbent president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. "Please ‎look into the matter in objective terms," said Abul-Ela, ‎arguing "an elected president usually devotes the ‎first year of his first term in office to exploring the ‎country's problems, while he takes the fourth year to ‎preparing himself to run for another term in presidential ‎elections." "This means that only two years are left ‎for him to find solutions to the country's problems and ‎this is by no means enough or fair," said Abul-Ela.‎

Saeed Hassanein, another independent MP ‎representing the constituency of Kerdasa in the ‎governorate of Giza, also insisted "a term of four ‎years in office is by no means enough for any president ‎to deliver in political and economic terms."

"We know ‎that the real objective of article 140 of the constitution ‎is to prevent presidents from staying in office for life and ‎to ensure peaceful rotation of power," said Hassanein, ‎but adding that "the principle of only two terms in office ‎is good like it is the case in America, but each term ‎should be increased to five years and this will be ‎enough to secure the goals of article 140 – that is giving ‎the president enough time to deliver and ensuring that ‎he will stay for a fixed period of time."‎

Mokhtar Dessouki, another independent MP from the ‎upper Egypt governorate of Assuit, said "the ‎constitution has to be amended not only to increase the ‎president's years in office, but also to grant the ‎president greater powers." "The new constitution ‎stripped the president of many powers that he should ‎exercise so that he is able to deliver," said Dessouki, a former ‎member of former president Hosni Mubarak's ruling ‎National Democratic Party (NDP).‎

New MPs, however, differed over who should be Egypt's ‎new parliamentary speaker. Abul-Ela said he does not ‎favour former interim president Adly Mansour or former ‎foreign minister Amr Moussa to be the new speaker. "I rather favour ‎Justice Minister Ahmed Al-Zind to be the next speaker," ‎said Abul-Ela, adding "Al-Zind is an anti-Muslim ‎Brotherhood firebrand, not to mention that he is a forceful ‎figure who can impose his say on a parliament with 596 ‎seats and with new powers."‎

Hesham Magdi, another independent MP from the ‎upper Egypt governorate of Beni Suef, also told ‎reporters that he is in favor of amending article 140 to ‎increase the president's years in office. Magdi heaped ‎praise on president El-Sisi, insisting that he is ‎independent and will be keen to cooperate with him for the ‎public interest of all Egyptians. Magdi also believes that ‎the next parliamentary speaker should be an elected ‎MP. "This issue should be left to MPs to decide and to ‎elect the one who gains a majority of votes," said Magdi.‎

Most new MPs, however, criticised the performance of ‎the new government of Prime Minister Sherif Ismail. ‎Magdi described Ismail's government as very weak and ‎lacking in goals and objectives. "Our first role is to ‎review this government's statement of policy and see ‎whether it deserves confidence," said Magdi.‎

Most MPs opened fire on private television channels ‎and newspapers, accusing them of launching a hostile ‎campaign against the new parliament.‎

All MPs criticised Secretary-general Al-Sadr's decision ‎that each MP be allocated a certain seat with a certain ‎figure. They said MPs should be left free to sit where ‎they like in the main plenary meeting hall. ‎

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