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Egypt considers a mixed political system

Egypt might adopt a mixed political system after decades of presidential system fearing a slip back to authoritarian rule, ensuring balance between executive and legislative powers

Ahram Online, Tuesday 17 Sep 2013
50 member committee
File photo: 50 member constitution committee assemble at the Shura Council headquarters (Photo:Ahram)
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Following decades of authoritarian rule, in which power has been usurped by one strongman and his party, Egypt is considering a mixed political system, which would ensure a balance between state powers.

The body in charge of defining Egypt’s political future is the constitutional commission, which seems to be reaching agreement regarding a mixed system, leaning towards a presidential model.

“This system will protect us from creating a new dictator or an authoritarian parliament,” explained Mohamed Abdel Aziz, deputy-head of the commission and member of the Tamarod (Rebel) youth group. “We need to ensure balance and separation between state powers, so no power takes control over the other,” he told Ahram Online.

Abdel Aziz said the commission will start drafting the detailed articles on Tuesday, which will later be submitted to the 50-member constitutional committee for validation, either by consensus or a vote requiring 75% agreement.

Initial proposals, made public on Monday evening, were widely welcomed by political parties. “We have been calling for a mixed regime; one in which each power supervises and controls the other,” said the spokesman of the leftist Popular Current, Emad Hamdi.

Chehab Waguih, spokesperson for  the Free Egyptians, a liberal political group, said his party was in favour of a government that would lean as much as possible towards a presidential system. “Our political life is not stable enough, our parties are not strong enough to establish a parliamentary system,” he told Ahram Online.

However, the general coordinator of the Wafd party, Wafiq al-Ghitani, said he would prefer a parliamentary system that “will strengthen Egypt’s political life and its parties.”

President vs Parliament

The commission agreed on Monday that two thirds of parliament should be able to call for a public referendum to oust the president, and that the parliament should automatically be dissolved if the referendum results are negative. Similarly, the president should be able to call for a public referendum to dissolve parliament, and also be ousted if the referendum results are negative.

Mohamed Abdel Aziz denied a mixed political system would further destabilise Egypt’s political life. “Each power will deal reasonably with this right, because they risk being ousted or dissolved,” he said, adding that no power would “resort to a referendum unless it were sure of the peoples' support.”

Emad Hamdi from the Popular Current said this provision would guarantee that “the president will not be able to dissolve parliament simply because it is dominated by the opposition.”

Spokesman of the Salafist Nour party, Sherif Taha, said such provisions will help resolve tensions if two distinct groups dominate the presidency and parliament and can’t work together. “If political life is paralysed, it is natural to go back to the people with a referendum, and they will decide who should leave,” he said.

Consensus over the prime minister

Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported the commission also suggested that the party who obtains a majority in the parliament has the right to form the government and choose the prime minister. If this candidate is rejected, any member of parliament can propose another. If the proposed representative doesn’t obtain the majority of votes, the president can suggest a candidate, and if the latter is not agreed upon by the parliament, it can be dissolved . 

Waguih, from the Free Egyptian party, said the prime minister should be chosen by consensus between the president and parliament. “Otherwise, there will be dissension and political battles between the president and his prime minister,"  he explained.

Following the ouster of Mohamed Morsi on 3 July by security forces amid mass protests against his presidency, Egypt’s new authorities have been following a transitional roadmap, which aims at leading the country toward democracy.

The 2012 constitution, drafted by a committee dominated by Islamists, has been temporarily suspended. It is currently being reviewed by a 50-member committee formed by representatives of various political parties and public figures, after it was initially amended by a committee of judicial experts.

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