Egypt MPs to give remarks on proposed constitutional amendments on Monday

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 24 Mar 2019

File photo: A general view of the Egyptian parliament during a working session in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016 (AP)

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said on Sunday that a hearing session will be held on Monday to hear the viewpoints and remarks of MPs on the proposed amendments to Egypt's 2014 constitution.

Abdel-Aal said that "parliament is keen to listen to the viewpoints of all MPs, majority and opposition, on the proposed amendments that were submitted by the Support Egypt coalition on 3 February."

Monday's hearing session will be held at the meeting hall of the old Shura Council.

Egypt's parliament also said in a statement on Sunday that it expects that proposed amendments will be voted on and passed by the middle of April.

A statement released by Abdel-Aal's office said that the discussion of the proposed constitutional amendments began on 3 February when 155 MPs representing more than a fifth of the total number of deputies (596) submitted a motion asking that a number of the national charter's articles be amended.

"Since that date, parliament has been keen that all the measures followed in debating this motion go in line with Article 226 of the constitution, which allows for MPs to propose amending the constitution under certain conditions," said the statement.

"As a result, parliament's general committee held a number of meetings between 3 and 5 February to discuss the motion," said the statement, adding that "on 5 February, the committee, which includes the speaker, his two deputies, the chairpersons of 25 committees and representatives of political parties and independent forces, decided to approve the motion in principle."

"Also on 5 February, a report was prepared by the committee and copies of it were made available to all MPs to read and review one week ahead of being discussed in parliament in a plenary session," said the statement.

On 14 February and at the end of a three-session debate, the majority of MPs (485 MPs)  provisionally approved the proposed constitutional amendments.

"Upon hearing his/her name, each MP was asked to say 'yes' or 'no' to the amendments, and the result was that 485 MPs voted in favour of the motion in principle," said the statement.

Next and over one month (between 16 February and 16 March), said the statement, parliament's legislative and constitutional affairs committee took charge of receiving written comments and remarks from all state authorities, civil society organisations, and public figures on the proposed amendments.

On 20 March, the third stage of the discussion of the amendments took off.

"On that day, the constitutional and legislative affairs committee led by parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal began holding a national dialogue on the proposed constitutional amendments," said the statement, adding that "the first week of the national dialogue debate on the amendments saw the holding of three hearing sessions, one on Wednesday 20 March and two on Thursday 21 March." 

"In the first session, parliament listened to the remarks and comments of representatives of religious institutions (Al-Azhar and the Coptic Church), constitutional law professors, and media people," said the statement, adding that "in the two and third hearing sessions on Thursday, parliament listened to representatives of judicial authorities and national councils (such as the National Council for Human Rights and the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood)."

The statement said parliament plans to hold an additional three hearing sessions on the constitutional amendments on 27 and 28 March. 

"On Wednesday 27 March, the fourth session will be devoted to listening to the viewpoints of a number of high-profile politicians and representatives of political parties, and on Thursday 28 March, businessmen, representatives of civil society organisations and a number of public figures will come to give their opinion and comments on the proposed amendments," said the statement.

Next, said the statement, parliament's constitutional and legislative affairs committee will hold meetings over two weeks to make the final draft of the constitution's articles proposed to be amended. 

"The committee will prepare the proposed amendments to the 2014 constitution in their final form, and a report in this respect will be made available to MPs to discuss it in a plenary session and then take the final vote on the amendments," said the statement, adding that "so we expect that all the measures in this respect will be finalised by the middle of April."

"The proposed amendments must gain the approval of two-thirds majority of MPs and deputies will be required to say 'yes' or 'no' when each hears his/her name," said the statement.

The amendments involve changes to articles 102, 140, 160, 189, 190, 193, 200, 204, 234, 243 and 244. 

The amendments have six objectives: to give a greater quota of parliamentary seats (25 percent) 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 redefine the role of the army in defending the country.

If passed in the middle of April, the amendments will be referred to President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to be put to a national vote in a public referendum. The National Electoral Commission will be in charge of conducting the referendum. Many expect that the referendum will be held at the end of April and before the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan begins on 6 May.

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