File Photo: Egyptian house of Parliament in downtown Cairo (Photo: Reuters)
Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi, leader of the “Support Egypt” parliamentary majority, told reporters Sunday that more than 120 MPs have signed a petition asking that some articles of the country’s 2014 Constitution be amended.
“This goes in line with Article 226 of the constitution, that stipulates that a fifth of the total number of MPs (596) can propose constitutional amendments, and with parliament’s internal regulations (issued by Law No 1/2016),” said Al-Qasabi, adding: “In this way, MPs have exercised a constitutional right, and it is up to the people at the end to vote in favour of the amendments or reject them in a public referendum.”
Al-Qasabi said the petition will be referred to parliament’s general committee (headed by Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, and including his two deputies, the chairpersons of 25 parliamentary committees and representatives of political parties and independents) to be discussed and voted on in principle. “If approved by the general committee, it will be referred to parliament’s legislative and constitutional affairs committee to discuss it in detail in hearing sessions and see if it goes in line with Article 226 of the constitution and ensure that it gives more rights and guarantees,” said Al-Qasabi.
Al-Qasabi revealed that the amendments propose that the presidential term be extended from four to six years, and that the president appoint one or two vice-presidents.
“MPs believe that the extension is necessary to give the elected president good time to implement his election programme,” said Al-Qasabi, adding: “The amendment in this respect should observe the last paragraph of Article 226 of the constitution, which stipulates that in all circumstances, the texts related to the re-election of the president and principles of freedom and equality can be changed only if they provide more guarantees.”
“So, as you see, the constitution does not stand against changing presidential terms, but it only asks for guarantees in this respect,” said Al-Qasabi.
The amendments also recommend recreating a second house parliament to be named “the Senate.” “MPs want a return to the bicameral system and hope that Egypt has two houses in order to give greater space for political activists to participate in parliamentary life,” said Al-Qasabi.
He also indicated that one of the amendments stipulates that 25 per cent of seats in parliament be reserved for women, while maintaining adequate representation for Copts, youth, and the physically challenged.
Al-Qasabi added that "the constitutional amendments should be concluded in 120 days, or four months.” “In one month, or 30 days, parliament should decide whether the petition is passed or rejected, and in the next two months, or 60 days, parliament should discuss the proposed amendments and vote on them, and if approved this would be followed by putting the amendments up to a vote in a yes/no public referendum.”
Alaa Wali, head of parliament’s housing committee, told Ahram Online that there is a growing consensus among MPs that Egypt’s 2014 constitution be amended.
“This constitution was drafted in 2013 in a hurry and in troubled times, but now that Egypt has recovered stability, some articles of this national charter should be reconsidered to observe the national interests of the country,” said Wali, adding: “As for changing presidential terms, the amendment in this respect will be subject to particular study by the legislative and constitutional affairs committee to see whether it goes in line with the last paragraph of Article 226 which stipulates that any change in this respect should be made under special guarantees.”
Informed sources told Ahram Online that most political parties with representatives in parliament have signed the petition on constitutional amendments. Two parties, the leftist Tagammu and the Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party, have refused to join the consensus.