Egypt's constitution-drafting panel yet to resolve 20 controversial articles

Ahram Online, Friday 22 Nov 2013

50 member committee amending the 2012 constitution to discuss disputed articles on Saturday

Egypt's constitution committee (Photo: Al-Ahram)

A number of controversial proposed amendments to Egypt's constitution, which is in the process of being re-drafted, will be discussed for the second time on Saturday by the drafting committee after members failed to reach a consensus.

"Around 20" articles will be subject to a second discussion and vote, committee spokesman Mohamed Salmawy stated, after failing to garner the necessary 75 percent of members' votes required for inclusion.

One article under discussion on Saturday relates to the power of the president to appoint ministers to four key ministries: defence, foreign affairs, interior and justice. The article being considered for a second reading states that the president will appoint the ministers after negotiating the matter with the prime minister.

The legality of subjecting civilians to military tribunals, which has also been a point of controversy in the process of drafting the new constitution, will be included in Saturday’s reading.

Article 198 in the 2012 constitution states that civilians may not be tried before military courts, except for crimes that "harm the armed forces" which are specified by law.

On Thursday, 30 members voted in favour of an amended article allowing "conditional" military trials of civilians. Seven voted against, two members abstained, and 11 were absent. The text of the article refers to direct attacks on military premises, camps, properties and factories; attacks on military zones and border areas, and attacks on military vehicles or personnel while they are carrying out their duties. Crimes related to military documents, secrets or funds are also included in the article.

Another article to be discussed is that related to the representation of workers and farmers in parliament after an article dating back to the 1960s which allocated 50 percent of parliamentary seats to the two groups was removed last week.

A trade union representative withdrew from the drafting committee in protest at the removal of the article. Salmawy has affirmed that there will be a new transitional article in the final draft that deals with workers and farmers' parliamentary rights.

Some members, however, are reluctant to attend a second reading of articles that were already voted on.

“Why are we re-discussing articles that were already voted for and agreed on - unless there’s something we don’t know being planned,” complained committee member Mohamed El-Masah, a representative of citizens with physical disabilities, in a press statement reported by Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

Officials say the final version of the constitution will be completed by 3 December and will be submitted to interim President Adly Mansour for approval. It will then be put to a national referendum.

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