Friday, March 18, 2011

Egyptians to decide on their constitutional amendments

AEP March 18th 2011

Egyptians will tomorrow decide on the fate of their constitution through a national referendum. A firm decision on a 'yes' or 'no' vote to the proposed clauses of the Constitution made by an adhoc committee will in a long run derail or put the country back to democracy. In all 11 amendments proposed by the Committee will receive votes. The 11 includes eight (8) amendments to an existent article, one proposed cancellation and two proposed additions.

As the debate on the constitutional amendments rages on, two factions have emerged; one group which advocates implementation of the amendments that is the Islamists and the other group which insists on the drafting of a new Constitution who have been referred to as the secular force. The latter group is of the perception that an amendment to the existent constitution will only be a reproduction of a regime similar to Mubarak's own but rather a new constitution drafted under a new Committee will ensure no favouritism.

Hossam Issa, a law professor at Ain Shams University and a strong advocate of a new constitution has been quoted by Al-Masry Al-Youm as sayng "If the amendments are passed, the situation will become very sad because we will be reproducing Mubarak's regime,"  "We want a new Constitution. These partial amendments are being introduced to a Constitution that has already become nil. The Constitution fell the same day power was handed over to the armed forces."

Owing to the break in the social structure and the emergence of total anarchy which resulted after the ousting of Mubarak, most citizens believe that conducting a referendum or elections in the country's present state where the military has an upper hand will not produce free and fair results.

Some of the proposed amendments include; Article 77 which when amended will reduce the presidential term to four years with a two-term limit, Article 139 will read future presidents would need to appoint a vice president within 60 days of taking office, Article 76 will read Presidential candidates would need either to secure the support of 30 members of the two houses of the country's parliament or the backing of 30,000 eligible voters across at least 15 governorates, or they would need to be nominated by a registered political party with at least one member elected to either the People's Assembly, the lower house of parliament, or the Shura Council, the upper chamber , Article 75 will necessitate the president to  be at least 40 years of age, and of Egyptian parents and no other nationality, and not married to a non-Egyptian and a yes to Article 189 will mean parliament will select a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution within six months.

Al- Ahram reports that the country's two main presidential hopefuls, present Secretary-General of the Arab League Amr Moussa and ex-chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed El-Baradei ,  have all expressed their  misgivings to the proposed amendments.

El-Baradei has described the amendments "as an insult to the achievements of the 25 January youth revolution," arguing that "an interim presidential council be tasked with drafting a new constitution within one year" instead and urging the cancellation of the present referendum.

Meanwhile some 200 judges have threatened to boycott the referendum claiming the committee used "favouritism" in choosing certain judges to supervise particular polling stations.

If they are approved in Saturday's referendum, the changes will lay the groundwork for parliamentary elections in June and a presidential vote in August or September.


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