Egypt’s panel proposes constitution amendments

Egypt’s panel proposes constitution amendments

A committee formed by Egypt’s military rulers who took power from former president Mubarak following his ouster earlier this month met with the military council to look into the proposed amendments, to Egypt’s constitution before parliamentary and presidential elections.

The judicial 10 member committee led by Tariq al-Bishry has proposed the reinstalled judicial supervision on elections in addition to restricting the time a president can stay in office to eight years. Former President Mubarak was serving his fifth, six-year term when he was toppled in the face of 18-day mass uprising. Under the amendments, the future president would need to appoint a deputy within 60 days of taking office.

In a bid to pacify growing protests in the country the meeting came after the military rulers suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament.

Bishry revealed further amendments to article 76 allowing three ways to run for presidency easing conditions for presidential nominations.

According to changes, those fielding for presidency must either have the support of 30 members of parliament or the backing of 30,000 eligible voters or nominated by a registered political party with at least one member elected to either the upper or lower house of parliament.

The panel also proposed that the president should be no younger than 40, with two Egyptian parents with no other nationality, and not be married to a non-Egyptian. In addition to this the drafted amendments say the president must appoint a vice president within 60 days from taking office.

Subjecting elections to judicial supervision was another main demand of protesters and opposition groups behind the uprising.

Other proposed amendments will make it complicated for a president to maintain the state of emergency which was abused by Mubarak throughout his reign to rule with an iron hand. Although the existing constitution was suspended by the military council the state of emergency is still in place. The state of emergency was initially imposed during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and re-imposed following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat.

Under the current constitution, the president can call a state of emergency but it has to be approved by the parliament. The change however stipulates the president must present the announcement of a state of emergency to parliament within seven days furthermore the state of emergency should not last for more than six months, after which it cannot be extended without the approval of the people through a referendum.

The military council has vowed it will lift it within six months.

The president’s use of military justice article 179 allows the president to transfer any case concerning "terror" to any judicial body, offering him the right to use military courts. Many have fallen victims to the military tribunals serving harsh and unjust sentences including the Muslim Brotherhood deputy chairman Khayrat el Shater, and businessman Hassan Malek and others.

The decades-old state of emergency, also allows for trying civilians in military courts.

Other proposed change include the president has the right to request a new constitution after cabinet approval, but also gives the same right to parliament if half the members of the lower and upper chambers request it. In both cases, the new constitution must be approved in a referendum.

Eleven articles of the constitution are still expected be put to a referendum and a new charter would be drawn up after elections.