Egypt's parliament: Constitutional amendments consultations begin

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 14 Mar 2019

Egyptian Parliament (Photo: Reuters)

Parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee will hold meetings on proposed amendments to Egypt’s 2014 constitution next week.

Head of the committee Bahaaeddin Abu Shokka told reporters the dialogue is expected to kick off after 15 March, and will continue for two weeks.

Six hearing sessions have been scheduled, and though a final decision on whether they will be broadcast live has not been taken journalists will be allowed to attend the debates.

Abu Shokka added that though parliamentary by-laws allow such meetings to be closed-door he had insisted the sessions be open.

The amendments will impact the future of Egypt and every Egyptian has the right to follow the debate on them, he said.

“We have invited representatives of religious institutions, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Interior Ministry, the Higher Council for Justice, heads of appeal courts, the prosecutor-general, head of the administrative prosecution, military judges and the Judges’ Club to attend,” said Abu Shokka.

“Representatives of the National Council for Women, the National Council for Human Rights, the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, the National Council for the Physically Challenged, the Central Bank of Egypt, the Central Auditing Agency, the Administrative Control Authority and the Public Authority for Financial Control will also participate in the dialogue.”

Constitutional law experts, faculty of law deans, leaders of the Union of Egyptian Students and representatives of professional syndicates and trade unions have also been invited.

The consultations are being held after 485 MPs provisionally approved the proposed amendments on 14 February.

Since the vote Abu Shokka says many political parties and state institutions have forwarded comments on the proposed amendments to the committee and a report on the remarks received will be available to all participants in the coming consultations.

Sayed Abdel-Aal, head of the leftist Tagammu Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly that although the Tagammu voted against the amendments it will be an active participant in the dialogue.

“We have sent the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee a detailed document outlining the party’s views,” said Abdel-Aal. “We have no objections to increasing the presidential term from four to six years, or President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi running for one more six-year term after his current term expires in 2022.”

The Tagammu also agrees to amending Article 200 to give the Armed Forces a leading role in protecting democracy.

“As the 30 June Revolution showed, the Armed Forces were the major force standing against attempts by the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist movements to turn Egypt into a theocratic state. The amendment is a necessary bulwark against Islamist forces attempting to usurp power in the future,” said Abdel-Aal.

On Sunday President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi told a cultural symposium organised by the Armed Forces on the occasion of Martyrs’ Day that events following the 2011 Revolution were attempts to spread chaos across Egypt.

“The organisers of protests, particularly in front of the Interior Ministry and in Mohamed Mahmoud Street, sought to demonise the ruling military council, force it from power and open the door to anarchy,” said Al-Sisi. He warned that “some forces still seek a repeat of the post-2011 scenario… they do not want to see Egypt a successful story.”

Gibali Al-Maraghi, chair of parliament’s Labour Committee and head of the General Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (GEFTU), told the Weekly that in written comments to parliament trade unions had asked that 50 per cent of the seats in parliament be reserved for representatives of workers and farmers.

“This was the case between 1964 and 2012 and we want the quota revived to preserve the rights of these two groups,” said Al-Maraghi.

The amendments involve changes to articles 102, 140, 160, 189, 190, 193, 200, 204, 234, 243 and 244. According to Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, they have six objectives: to give a greater quota of parliamentary seats (25 per cent) to women; create a second house; increase the presidential term from four to six years; reinstate the post of the vice president; regulate the system for selecting the heads of judicial authorities; and re-define the role of the army in defending the country.

On 28 February Abdel-Aal told reporters the amendments could be changed as a result of consultations “and even during the debate which will precede the final vote in parliament”. He promised an open and vigorous dialogue. “Nothing is a foregone conclusion. We know the vote in the public referendum on the amendments will depend on how far the debate over the amendments is credible and open.”

Some political parties, led by the Future of the Homeland Party and in collaboration with the General Federation of Non-governmental Organisations, have started a campaign in support of the amendments.

Federation head Talaat Abdel-Qawi said the campaign — titled “Turn out and Vote” — will explain the necessity of the amendments to Egypt’s political future and urge citizens to actively vote in the public referendum expected at the end of April.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 March, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Constitutional consultations begin

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