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Egypt to adopt a French-style political system: Salmawy

50-member committee votes to adopt French-style system in which president, prime minister share powers; President to require approval before declaring state of emergency

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 11 Nov 2013
Mohamed Salmawy
Constituent Assembly spokesman Mohamed Salmawy. (Photo: Reuters)
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The 50-member committee tasked with amending the suspended 2012 constitution has begun to discuss the charter's "system of governance" chapter, which will decide Egypt's new political system.

On Monday, committee spokesperson Mohamed Salmawy told parliamentary correspondents that the committee had voted on 16 articles concerning system of governance, including article 121 which "builds the new shape of Egypt's political system."

According to Salmawy, the article adopts a French-style political system in which the president and prime minister share powers.

"Members rejected the American-style presidential system in favour of the French mixed parliamentary-presidential system," said Salmawy. This system grants the prime minister greater powers, so that the president is not the only major decision-maker like in Egypt's 1971 and 2012 constitutions, Salmawy added.

Article 121 states that the majority party is responsible for naming a prime minister. If the overwhelming majority of the People's Assembly – Egypt's lower parliamentary house – do not endorse the selected prime minister within 60 days, the president has 30 days to name a new prime minister.

Salmawy argued that this article prevents the People's Assembly from having absolute say in the prime minister's selection.

According to article 125, state public policy and its implementation are the responsibility of the president and his cabinet.

Salmawy stated that according to article 127, the president is no longer endowed with the exclusive power to declare war. Now, the president must first "seek prior approval from the cabinet, the armed forces, the national defence council, and two-thirds of parliament members."

Likewise, article 129 stipulates that the president cannot declare a state of emergency without approval within seven days from the cabinet and two-thirds of parliament

The committee also voted on several articles concerning presidential term limits, Salmawy added.

Article 115 was amended to state that the president cannot be elected more than two times. A president elected to a four-year term may run again for another consecutive four years, however if he loses the second term he cannot run again in any future presidential election.

"This stipulation is found in several constitutions across the world, particularly in the United States," Salmawy reasoned. "Some Americans asked that [two-term US president] Bill Clinton run for president again after George W Bush left power in 2008, but the American constitution ruled against this."

To qualify for the presidency, candidates must be at least 40 years old and born to Egyptian parents, article 116 was amended to state. The candidate, his spouse, and his parents cannot hold dual nationality.

Article 117, which further details presidential candidacy qualifications, was also amended to make the vetting stage more rigorous. Presidential hopefuls must now receive the recommendation of 25 (as opposed to 20) parliamentary members, or collect signatures from 25,000 (up from 20,000) citizens. These signatures must come from 15 (up from 10) different governorates, from which each governorate must yield at least 1,000 signatures.

Salmawy added that an article was approved that would forbid military personnel from voting in elections.

According to Salmway, article 114 was amended to say that one of the president's primary responsibilities is to uphold the country's independence and the safety and unity of its territory. This change was prompted, Salmawy said, "after we learned that the ousted Islamist president [Mohamed Morsi] planned to give up southern Egypt's Shalatin and Halayeb land to Sudan."

For the first time in Egypt's history, the new constitution will include a separate section on culture. The committee approved "as many as six new articles under this chapter, making the state responsible for adopting an ambitious translation programme, helping to publish cultural material at affordable prices, and ensuring artistic creativity," Salmawy boasted. Additional articles in this chapter require that the state safeguard Egyptian antiquities against theft, ensuring the protection of Egyptian heritage by preventing the sale of these antiquities in international auctions.

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