Ahram Online’s guide to Egypt’s newly-proposed constitutional amendments

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 4 Feb 2019

The proposed amendments aim to increase the length of presidential terms, make representation in parliament more inclusive, and amend regulations governing the judiciary

Egyptian parliament
Speaker Abdel-Aal chairs the Egyptian parliament’s general committee meeting on Sunday 3 February, 2019 (Photo: Khaled Meshaal)

The Egyptian parliament’s general committee has preliminarily approved a motion signed by more than 120 MPs (one-fifth of the total deputies) on Sunday to amend 15 articles of Egypt’s 2014 constitution.

The proposed amendments aim to increase the length of presidential terms, make representation in parliament more inclusive, and amend regulations governing the judiciary.

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said that a meeting will be held on Tuesday morning to complete discussions on the amendments.

The popose amendments are expected to be approved in principle, after which a report will be prepared for a vote in a plenary session in parliament.

If MPs vote yes, the proposed amendments will be sent to parliament’s legislative and constitutional affairs committee to be discussed in detail in hearing sessions that should not exceed two months.

The committee’s meeting on Sunday evening heaped praise on the amendments, declaring that “there is no question that four years of on-the-ground implementation of Egypt’s 2014 constitution have clearly shown that it needs an urgent overhaul.”

“This is not a bad thing, as nations need from time to time to amend their constitutions to adapt to developments on the ground,” said Abdel-Aal, adding that “any new amendments, however, should always aim to reinforce democracy and help the country’s sovereign institutions perform their duties and jobs efficiently.”

Abdel-Aal said in a statement that the proposed amendments aim to achieve seven objectives: boost representation in parliament of women, Copts, Egyptian expatriates and the physically challenged; create an upper house of parliament to help widen participation in political and parliamentary life; increase the length of presidential terms from four to six years; bring back the post of vice president; introduce reforms in the selection of judicial authorities; create a coordination council for judicial authorities to be headed by the president; and change the way the minister of defence is appointed.

Ahram Online has obtained a copy of the proposed constitutional amendments, which aim to change 15 articles. The amendments make no change to articles on Islamic sharia (Article 2), Al-Azhar institution (Article 7), or the ban on religious parties (Article 74).

The ultraconservative Salafist Nour party has expressed approval of the proposed constitutional amendments in principle.

The representatives of three political parties – the leftist Tagammu, the Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party and the Conservatives – have so far declined to endorse the proposed amendments.

Speaker Abdel-Aal said that the amendments address a grave shortcoming enshrined in Article 140 regarding presidential terms.

“The conditions of the country and the region around us over four years show that a presidential term of four years is by no means realistic, and that we need a president that can have enough time to implement his election programme and development plans,” said Abdel-Aal.

The following is a list of the 15 constitutional amendments proposed by the Support Egypt parliamentary majority and the introduction of two new articles on the post of the vice president and the upper house of parliament.

(1) Article 102 (first paragraph): The change aims to reduce the number of elected MPs in the house of representatives (Egypt’s lower house of parliament) from 596 to 450 MPs, with at least 25 percent of seats to be reserved for women representatives.

This change received objection from some MPs who argued that it violates the principle of equality and that it could be ruled unconstitutional.

Other MPs said that only 10 percent of seats should be reserved for women.

There are currently 90 female MPs (12 percent) in parliament, the highest in Egypt’s history.

(2) Article 102 (third paragraph): The law regulating the performance and election of the House of Representatives is to be changed to go in line with the above article.

(3) Article 140: The president of the republic shall be elected for six (instead of four) years, and cannot remain in office for more than two consecutive terms.

(4) A transitional article: The current president (Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi) can be re-elected in line with the amended Article 140.

(5) Article 160 (first paragraph): If a temporary obstacle makes the elected president unable to perform his duties, he will be replaced by a vice president or prime minister if there is no vice president.

(6) Article 160 (last paragraph): If a vice president or caretaker president takes office, he shall not be entitled to amend the constitution, dissolve the House or the Upper House, or dismiss the government.

(7) Article 185: Create a higher council for judicial authorities to be headed by the president. The council will take charge of discussing judicial affairs and drafting a new instrument for selecting the heads of judicial authorities.

(8) Article 190: The State Council will be exclusively authorised with revising draft laws and decrees.

(9) Article 189, (10) 193: These aim to standardise the instrument of selecting the prosecutor-general and the chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court and his deputy.

(11) Articles 200, (12) 204: Give military courts the power to deliberate on cases related to military crimes.

(13) Articles 234, (14) 243, (15) 244: These articles state that the minister of defence is appointed upon the approval of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), and increase representation of women, youth, Egyptian expatriates, Copts, workers, farmers and the physically challenged in parliament.

Two new articles:

- A new upper house of parliament (senate) is to be created. The number of the proposed Senate seats should not exceed 250, with two-thirds to be elected and one-third to be appointed by the president. The term limit for a Senate seat is five years and a political figure cannot be a member of both the House and the Senate. A Senate member should be at least 35 years of age.

- The Senate will take charge of discussing the budget and development plans, constitutional affairs, foreign agreements, and draft laws.

If approved by a two-thirds majority of MPs within four months, the proposed amendments will be presented to the president in a report and will be put to a public referendum.

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