Egypt's parliament approves law prohibiting army officers from running in elections without SCAF's approval

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 6 Jul 2020

Two other laws related to the Armed Forces and the National Security Council were also approved

File photo: Egyptian parliament (Photo: Reuters)
File photo: Egyptian parliament (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt’s House of Representatives approved in a plenary session on Monday morning a legislative amendment that prohibits army officers from running in general elections (presidential, parliamentary, and municipal) without acquiring the approval of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

The bill, an amendment to the law regulating the terms of service and promotion regarding army officers (Law 232/1959), states that the current law, drafted in 1959, was just prohibiting army officers from joining political parties, declaring their political viewpoints in public, or exercising any political activities in the form of joining political associations or organisations or participating in political rallies.

"But due to the technological development of the performance of the Armed Forces in order to go in line with the nature of modern wars, it became a necessity that army officers, be they still in service or on retirement or in reserve, don't run in general elections without SCAF's prior approval," said the draft law, adding that "army officers can appeal SCAF's decision before a military judicial committee within 30 days, and if rejected, it would be a final decision."

Parliament also approved an amendment to the law regulating the performance of the National Security Council (Law 19/2014).

The amendment states that SCAF and the National Security Council (NSC) shall meet whenever the state, its civilian nature, its constitution, its security, the republican system, or national unity face an impending threat in order to take the measures necessary to stand up to this threat.

Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said the amendment is in line with Article 200 of the 2019 amended constitution, which entrusted the Armed Forces with two new responsibilities: preserving the state's civilian nature and its constitution and standing up to threats facing the republican system or the country's national unity.

"In this case, the SCAF and NSC will hold a meeting upon the president's request to take the measures necessary to face the threats," said Abdel-Aal, adding that "the amendment also opens the door for the president to invite the vice president, chairman of the Senate, and a former president, to attend the meeting in line with constitutional amendments passed in April 2019."

Parliament also approved the amendment of the law regulating the performance of Popular Defence Organisations (Law 55/1968), and the provision of military education in secondary schools and higher education institutions (Law 46/1973).

The amendment of the 1968 law adds two new articles, the first will require that each governorate has a military advisor and an adequate number of assistants to be named by the minister of defence.

The second article states that a governorate's military advisor will participate in conducting a periodical field follow-up of the services offered to citizens in each governorate in a way that shall observe the comprehensive concept of national security and preservation of the constitution in collaboration with educational departments at the governorate levels.

Military advisors will also make sure that military education in secondary schools and universities are taught in a way that will help students get enough information on military culture, medical service, crisis management and national projects and the role of the Armed Forces in preserving the constitution and democracy.

Abdel-Aal said it is necessary military education be taught in schools in a much better way. Other MPs, such as head of the local administration committee Ahmed El-Sigini, said the amendments are in line with the constitution and aim to inform students of the new roles of the army in public life in Egypt.

"Egypt is no exception as many countries are keen that students in secondary schools have good, correct and adequate information about the roles of the armed forces of their countries," said El-Sigini.

Mamdouh Shahin, assistant to the minister of defence for legal and constitutional affairs, told MPs that the new legislative amendments related to the laws regulating the performance of the Armed Forces and national security council only aim to translate some of the constitution's articles into facts.

"We see that all agree that the role of the Armed Forces is very important for preserving the homeland and safeguarding it against all forms of dangers," said Shahin.

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