Egypt parliament concludes national dialogue on constitutional amendments

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 28 Mar 2019

File Photo: The Egyptian Parliament (Photo:Reuters)

The Egyptian parliament's legislative and constitutional affairs committee concluded on Thursday its national dialogue on proposed amendments to Egypt's 2014 constitution. 

A number of public figures, representatives of the economic and business sectors, NGOs, and the Ministry of Social Solidarity were invited to give their comments on the amendments during today's last two hearing sessions.

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, who led the committee's meetings, opened the session by urging those who seek to organise a stand before parliament in protest of the proposed amendments to come and join the dialogue to freely express their views.

"I do not find any reason for this stand, and I say that the doors of parliament are open to listen to your views," said Abdel-Aal.

On Wednesday, the committee, led by Abdel-Aal, held a five-hour meeting with representatives of political parties.

Most of the participants -- 52 political parties -- supported the amendments. Five parties, however, strongly attacked the amendments, insisting that they are "needless and come to serve personal interests."

The list of the opponents includes a mix of liberal and leftist political parties; the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Karama (Dignity) Party, the Conservatives Party, the Tagammu Party, and the Reform and Development Party. The Islamist Nour Party expressed reservations about some of the amendments.

Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat, the head of the liberal Reform and Development Party launched a scathing attack against the amendments, describing the "national dialogue" on them as "formal and pre-packaged."

According to Sadat, who was stripped by parliament from his membership in 2017 on charges of of leaking 'secret information to international institutions,' and forging signatures, said the dialogue on the amendments lacks any kind of transparency.

"The media are not allowed any good chance to cover the dialogue, and so the people do not know the content of these amendments and or on what they will vote in the anticipated public referendum," said Sadat. 

Mohamed Sami, head of the Nasserist Karama Party, accused Abdel-Aal of acting under instructions from President El-Sisi in proposing the constitutional amendments.

In response, Abdel-Aal swore that he never acts under instructions from President El-Sisi. 

"President El-Sisi has no connection at all with these amendments, and that they came only upon an initiative of the majority of MPs, who believe that they are serving the national interests of Egypt."

Abdel-Aal also insisted that the national dialogue listened to all viewpoints on the amendments, including the minority opposition and the majority.

"The amendments were widely covered by the media, and parliamentary correspondents were allowed to attend the debate to convey every word to the public," said Abdel-Aal, also rejecting that the dialogue was just "formal and pre-packaged."

"We listened to all viewpoints, and tomorrow –Thursday - a number of public figures and representatives of NGOs will be invited to give their comments and remarks."

Abdel-Nasser Qandil, the head of the political bureau of the leftist Tagammu Party, said the party does not sign off on the amendments. 

"We have submitted a document that proposes different amendments to the constitution," said Qandil.

Talaat Marzouk, representative of the Islamist Nour Party, said that the party has reservations about the amendments, particularly the ones related to allocating a 25 percent of the quota of seats to women in parliament, recreating the Shura Council, and the one which describes Egypt as a "civilian state."

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