Egypt's parliament to hold final discussion on constitutional amendments on 16, 17 April

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 10 Apr 2019

A report containing the final draft of the amendments will be ready next Sunday; MPs will be required to vote on each amended article

Members of the Egyptian parliament attend the opening session at the main headquarters of Parliament in Cairo, Egypt, January 10, 2016. (Reuters)

Egypt’s parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal revealed on Wednesday that MPs will discuss the final draft of proposed amendments to the country's 2014 constitution on 16 and 17 April.

"A sub-committee tasked with writing the final draft of the amendments will finish its job on Sunday, and then a report on this will be discussed on Tuesday (16 April) and Wednesday (17 April)," said Abdel-Aal, adding that "I hope that the final drafts will gain the full satisfaction of Egyptian public opinion."

The amendments, submitted by the parliamentary majority Support Egypt coalition on 3 February, aim to increase the presidential term from four to six, reinstate the post of vice president, create a second House, and allocate a quota of 25 percent of seats in parliament to women.

Abdel-Aal, addressing a meeting with MPs on the amendments on Wednesday, indicated that the discussion and vote on the amendments on 16 and 17 April will be the end of a stage.

"A new and final stage will come when citizens will be invited to vote on the amendments in a public referendum," said Abdel-Aal, adding that "the referendum will be placed completely under judicial supervision."

Abdel-Aal said that a report containing the final draft of the amendments will be ready next Sunday.

"As for the plenary sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday – 16 and 17 April – they will be completely devoted to discussing the amendments," said Abdel-Aal.

According to Abdel-Aal, the amendments do not seek to "militarise" Egypt.

"None of the amended articles state that the Armed Forces should be involved in politics, as some think," said Abdel-Aal, adding that "the amendments in general maintain the role of the Armed Forces in safeguarding the country's borders against aggression and protecting the state's constitutional authorities."

Abdel-Aal argued that "the Armed Forces playing politics means that it can take the side of a certain political party or a certain candidate at the expense of another, but everyone knows that the Egyptian army is a professional one and that it is just keen to exercise its constitutional roles."

Responding to criticism leveled by MPs affiliated with the leftist 25-30 parliamentary group, Abdel-Aal also insisted that the amendments do not aim to institute an "inheritance of power."

"Inheritance of power in Egypt has come to an end, and the amendments do not seek to keep a certain president in power forever," said Abdel-Aal, adding that "the amendments do not change the two-term limit, they just seek to increase the length of the presidential term."

Abdel-Aal also indicated that citizens will be required to say "yes" or "no" to the amendments as a whole.

"It would go against the constitution to vote in the referendum article by article," said Abdel-Aal.

The meeting on Wednesday saw leftist MPs launching scathing attacks against the amendments, insisting that "they are needless and only to institute inheritance of power."

Mortada Mansour, an independent MP and head of Zamalek Sporting Club, fiercely criticised the 2011's 25th January revolution, which forced former president Hosni Mubarak to relinquish power. He also criticised the current 2014 constitution, claiming that it was tailored to serve certain interests.

Bahaaeddin Abu Shoqa, the chairperson of parliament's constitutional and legislative affairs committee, also indicated during the meeting that the amendments should gain the approval of two thirds of MPs – no less than 400 out of a total 596 – for the amendments to pass.

"Once passed, the amendments will be put to a vote in a public referendum, and that the National Committee for Elections (NCE) will be the authority tasked with inviting citizens to participate in this referendum," said Abu Shoqa.

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