Al-Bishri: Parliament Legally Entitled to Allocate Proportions of Constituent Assembly
Constitutional scholar and Counselor Tariq Al-Bashri, Chairman of the Egyptian People’s Assembly (PA) Constitutional Amendments Committee, said that objections to parliament’s decision to elect 50% of the constitution-writing panel from the two Houses’ MPs and the other 50% from outside parliament as “vain arguments which ignore the legal and logical interpretation of Article 60, which is one of the articles approved by the people in the 19th of March 2011 referendum, and which cannot be amended except by a new referendum”.
Al-Bashri’s comment was in response to questions raised by a number of political players in Egypt about the eligibility of Parliament in electing 50% of the Constituent Assembly (CA) of the constitution from the two Houses of Parliament. Instead, those political actors preferred that 100% of CA members should be elected from outside of parliament, based on some their own interpretation of Article 60 of the Constitutional Declaration, which clearly gives the right to MPs to be elected to the CA entrusted with drawing up the Constitution.
In an exclusive statement to the Egyptian newspaper «Al-Shorouk», Counselor Al-Bashri said that according to the March 19 referendum, the PA and Shura Council’s special joint committee had every right to organize and handle the full process of electing the body tasked with drafting the nation’s new national charter, “It is definitely better than the method of selecting members of the CA with unilateral decisions by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) or the government, as was the case in previous constitutions”.
Al-Bashri added that indeed the two Houses of Parliament have the exclusive right to select members of the CA and to determine proportions of representation therein. “MPs acted very prudently, and generously, as they invited all segments, factions, hues and denominations of Egyptian society to take part in writing their new constitution by applying for nomination and election as CA members. It was Parliament’s right to set the proportion of MP representation in the CA in whatever way it saw fit”.
In response to suggestions by some jurists that the term «election» means selecting exclusively from outside the PA and Shura Council, Al-Bashri said: “Referring to the linguistic meaning of this term and its use in Egyptian constitutions and laws, it is evident that election means selection, with no limitation or condition specifying categories or restricting which nominees or candidates to choose or select from”. He also cited the text of Article 103 of the 1971 Constitution, which states that “PA Members are to elect the Speaker of the PA and his two deputies”, and of course the word «elected» here means selecting or electing those persons from PA members only.
With respect to proceedings currently before the Council of State challenging the criteria used for the formation of the CA, Al-Bashri stressed that, “Everyone has the right to complain and start legal action, but ultimately it is up to the administrative judiciary to decide these matters”.