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Prominent Egyptian figures launch institution to 'spread constitutional culture'

A group of prominent Egyptian figures aim to spread 'constitutional culture' in Egypt through the new NGO

Zeinab El-Gundy , Tuesday 8 Mar 2016
Amr Moussa
The press conference of the Egyptian institution to protect Constitution in Cairo on Tuesday (Photo: Zeinab El-Gundy)
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A group of prominent Egyptian political figures launched on Tuesday the Egyptian Institution to Protect the Constitution in hopes of spreading "constitutional culture" in Egypt as well as implementing its articles.

In a press conference held at the Journalists Syndicate in Cairo, the head of the institution's board of trustees Amr Moussa stated that the new NGO aimed to spread awareness about the 2014 constitution and its articles. 

The institution announced that it would present studies and suggestions to the executive and legislative powers regarding the laws needed to complete the constitution and to pinpoint contradictions between laws and the constitution. 

"Although the constitution's articles have not been fully implemented, some are calling for amending it, claiming that some of the articles disrupt the executive power from doing its constitutional duties," the institute said in a statement.

"However, any critical reading of the constitution would reveal that the president's authority as the head of state and the executive branch is maintained in a balanced way."

In 2015, during the parliamentary elections, there were calls for amending the 2014 constitution to give the president more powers. 

In an interview with Al-Watan Daily in October 2015, the coordinator of the In Love of Egypt electoral bloc, MP Sameh Seif El-Yazal, stated that there were at least seven articles in the constitution that needed to be amended concerning the powers of the president, the cabinet and the parliament. 

El-Yazal, who is currently heading the Support Egypt bloc in the House of Representatives, stated that although there was a need to amend the constitution, this would not happen in the first two years of the parliamentary term. 

These calls have largely disappeared, but their echoes are present from time to time in statements by several MPs. 

"We are looking forward to a dialogue to preserve the constitution and its gains," Moussa said, adding that the new institute was not looking for a battle about the constitution. 

Last week, Article 226 was passed, giving the president the right to request from the parliament to amend the constitution.

The current Egyptian constitution was passed in a referendum in January 2014 with 98 percent of the vote.

Ten members of the 50- member committee that drafted the constitution are among the founders of the new institute, including political science professor Amr El-Shobaky, heart surgeon Magdi Yacoub, Dr. Abdel-Galil Mostafa, lawyer Mona Zulfukar, MP Khaled Youssef and writer Mohamed Salmawy.

There are also other prominent public and partisan figures among the founders of the locally funded NGO, including former foreign minister Nabil Fahmy, law professor Nour Farahat, and lawyer and economist Ziad Bahaa Eldin. 

Ahram Online asked writer and journalist Abdullah El-Sennawy about whether the members of the foundation who are currently members of political parties – such as Dr. Mohamed Abu El-Ghar, the leader of the Egyptian Democracy Social Party – were participating as party members or as private individuals. 

"They are here as individuals who believe we should spread the constitutional culture," he said, adding that the founders of the institution include two advisers to President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi; Dr. Abla Abdel-Latif and Dr. Azza El-Ashmawy.

El-Sennawy added that this wide variety of members from different backgrounds and positions will enable the institute to protect the constitution by having a "lobby" of sorts that focuses on the implementation of its articles. 

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Sam Enslow
09-03-2016 09:02am
Law of the Land
A constitution represents the 'law of the land'. It is not something that has value from time to time. Many countries have oaths of office that include a phrase like 'to protect The Constitution from all enemies both domestic and foreign. No individual can be above this law. I have been surprised that judges have not dismissed cases because the law being applied is unconstitutional. It is up to Parliament to revise such laws. Not applying the Constitution hurts civil society, investment, tourism, etc. Investors cannot make long term plans if laws are not clear and the rule of law applied without prejudice. Guaranteeing personal freedoms will better serve the interests of the government. Saying one thing and acting in another way eats away at public support. It also shows a government afraid of its own people.
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