After a month of deliberations and revisions, a 10-member technical committee entrusted with amending Egypt's 2012 constitution has finished its task.
On Tuesday, the committee handed an amended copy of the constitution to Adly Mansour, Egypt's interim president. The copy will be discussed by a 50-member committee representing major stakeholders in Egyptian society.
As revealed by Ahram Online on Monday, the committee decided to retain Article 2, which states that Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic its official language and Islamic sharia the main source of legislation. The committee, however, decided that Article 219, which gives various interpretations of Islamic sharia, be revoked. This reportedly came upon the request of most political and public institutions.
The article, which was added by the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly in 2012 under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, states that: "the principles of Islamic sharia include its generally-accepted interpretations, its fundamental and jurisprudential rules and its widely considered sources as stated by the schools of Sunna and Gamaa."
The committee also opted to change Article 6 to impose an outright ban on the formation of political parties based on religion or on mixing religion with politics. The article in its amended form states that "it is forbidden to form political parties or perform any activities on the basis of religious foundations or on the basis of discrimination in terms of gender or sex."
The new draft could lead to the dissolution of dozens of newly-formed political Islam parties – including the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party.
The committee's changes will also alter Egypt's electoral system, going back to an individual candidacy system which was in use in Egypt during most of the years of Hosni Mubarak's presidency.
The committee also ruled in favour of eliminating the Shura Council, parliament's upper house, and lifting a ban that prevented leading officials of Mubarak's defunct ruling National Democratic Party from exercising political rights, including running in elections.
Committee member Magdi El-Agati commented that: "Stripping citizens of their political rights must be instituted through judicial order rather than by the national charter."
El-Agati was the judge who ordered the dissolution of the NDP in 2011.
Egypt's interim presidency also said it will announce the make-up of the 50-member committee, representing all layers of society “within days.”
Members of the committee will represent political parties, intellectuals, workers, farmers, syndicates, national councils, Al-Azhar, Egyptian Church, armed forces, and police, in addition to other public figures. Ten youth and women are expected to be among the members.
Most members will be chosen by their respective bodies. The Cabinet will choose the public figures of the committee. The 50-member group is assigned to come up with the final draft of the constitution within 60 days. The final draft is expected to be up for public debate within the same period.
The president is to later put the amended version of the constitution to a national referendum within 30 days from receiving the final draft. It will be effective upon public approval.
The 2012 constitution was suspended as part of the Egyptian armed forces' roadmap for Egypt’s future following Islamist president Mohamed Morsi’s ouster on 3 July amid mass protests against him.
Egypt's non-Islamist political forces have repeatedly argued that the suspended constitution was not representative of all layers of society and limiting many freedoms. They blame the majority of the Islamist members of the outgoing constituent assembly for ignoring their recommendations.