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Egypt's constitutional committee at odds over abolishing upper house

Members of Egypt's constitution-drafting body disagree over whether to scrap the upper house of parliament, long seen as toothless

Ahram Online , Tuesday 29 Oct 2013
Egypt
Egypt's constitutional committee (Photo: Khaled Mashal)
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A move to abolish Egypt's upper house of parliament has stirred disagreement among the fifty members of the committee responsible for making changes to Egypt’s constitution.

In a Sunday meeting of the sub-committee responsible for working on governance issues, members were at loggerheads over the removal of proposed articles related to Egypt's upper chamber.

The 50-member committee had previously mulled eliminating the 33-year-old Shura Council, which has a primarily consultative role.

The proposal was welcomed by a wide array of political figures who argued that the body is toothless, has squandered state funds and was used as a pawn to tighten the government's grip on national press organisations through its role overseeing the appointment of leaders to state media bodies.

El-Sayyed El-Badawy, head of the liberal Wafd Party, argued that the phrasing sub-committee, which had removed the articles in question, is not entitled to abolish the chamber without referring the decision to the governance sub-committee.

Others, including Amr El-Shobaky, head of the governance sub-committee, advised scrapping the chamber on the grounds that it was ineffective.

Amr Moussa, head of the 50-member committee, has steered a middle course, backing an earlier proposition to retain the house under a new a name – the Senate - with fresh powers.

A spokesman for the 50-member committee had previously said that the council would bring legislative balance and prevent dominance by certain parties in the parliament.

A number of changes to the parliament's lower house are also on the table.

The 2012 Islamist-drafted constitution, which was passed by national referendum, was suspended when Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the army in July after mass protests against him.

The new transitional roadmap put forward by the army included amending the constitution.

The amended charter will be presented to interim President Adly Mansour in early December for approval and will then be subject to a national referendum.

The transitional roadmap envisions parliamentary elections and a presidential vote by mid-2014.

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