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Revised constitutional chart stirs up controversy

Political experts and public figures denounce the newly announced addendum to the interim Constitutional Declaration, saying it gives the military council unfettered authorities

Sherif Tarek , Monday 18 Jun 2012
SCAF
Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi (4th L), the head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and chief of staff of the Egyptian armed forces Sami Anan (Photo: Reuters)
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The abruptly announced addendum to the military-authored March 2011 Constitutional Declaration gives the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) unfettered powers and diminishes the role of the coming president, political experts say.

Veteran journalist, Ayman Sayyad, while speaking to Al-Hayat TV channel, highlighted that the next president, whether it is former Mubarak premier Ahmed Shafiq or the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, will not have any authorities over the military council.

"The president will not be able to change the minister of defence or make any changes to the military council; it cannot be touched," he said.

Article 53 B of the amended declaration stipulates that – until the new constitution is drafted – the incumbent SCAF members are solely in charge of the armed forces and all their matters, including hiring military leaders and extending their tenures.

Moreover, Article 53 B 1 says the president can declare a state of war only upon obtaining the approval of the military council. To the same extent, the president, according to Article 53 B 2, can use the armed forces to contain domestic unrest only through the consent of the SCAF.

The revised Constitutional Declaration, which was already ratified upon being published in Egypt’s official gazette, will be publicly announced by the SCAF at a press conference on Monday.

The SCAF’s complete independence from the president as Egypt’s military institute is not the only worry. Its political authorities have also been magnified, according to Pakinam El-Sharkawi, a Political Sciences professor at Cairo University.

She said: “The SCAF will influence the next constitution; the declaration gives it the right to supervise the constitution formation, as per Article 60 B 1.”

This particular article gives the right to the president, the SCAF chief, prime minister, the Supreme Council of the Judicary or a five members of the Constituent Assembly to call on the constitution-building body to reconsider any articles of the new constitution, whilst it is being drafted.

This can only be done, the amended constitutional document states, on the grounds that the constitutional articles in question go against the aims of the January 25 Revolution, or the principles of the previous Egyptian constitutions.

The Constituent Assembly, the body tasked with writing the constitution, was elected on Tuesday by the parliament but could well be dismantled after the People’s Assembly (the lower house of Egypt's parliament) was dissolved by the SCAF, pursuant to a court ruling that declared parliamentary elections law unconstitutional.

Article 60 B also stipulates that the SCAF will form a new constituent assembly should the current one be defunct.

The controversial declaration came after Saad El-Katatni, a Muslim Brotherhood leader and the speaker of the now-defunct People’s Assembly, met with members of the military council and discussed the fate of the constituent assembly.

After the document had been issued, El-Katatni said that in accordance with Article 60 of the new Constitutional Declaration, the current Constituent Assembly is still in effect and would convene.

He had previously branded the dismantling of the People’s Assembly as "unconstitutional."

The dissolving of the parliament’s lower house meant that the SCAF assumed full legislative and executive authorities over the country.

On his official Twitter account, opposition figure and former presidential candidate, Mohamed ElBaradei stated: "SCAF retains legislative power, strips president of any authority over army & solidifies it's control.Grave setback 4 democracy & revolution."

To read the new addendum to the interim constitutional declaration, please click here.

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