Thursday, 3 November 2011

UPDATED: Highlights Of Egypt's "Constitutional Principles Document"

Picture via AlMasry AlYoum

(Update: Draft has been updated. Changes are below the original article)

I finally managed to get my hands on the full text of the "Constitutional Principles Document" by Dr. Ali El Selmi, the document that SCAF is pushing for adoption. Here are some of the highlights:

1- Document outlines basic human rights in general (free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, etc...) in a manner that is almost verbatim from the current Constitutional Declaration.

2- Article two of the Egyptian Constitution is maintained as is, stipulating that Islam is the religion of the State, that "the principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation", that Arabic is the official language, and that "non-Muslims can refer to their own Shara'e" (roughly translated as: "Laws", legislations) for their civil & religious matters.

3- A few interesting notes on the army. Only SCAF will be allowed to analyse and debate any matters pertaining the army or the details of the military budget, and the military budget as a whole would be submitted as one single figure to the parliament for the annual State budget debate & voting. Also, war can only be declared by the President after the approval of both Parliament & SCAF. Oddly, this ignores the fact that the Parliament may choose a Parliamentary System without a strong President to begin with.

4- The Constitutional Assembly charged with the writing & the creation of the constitution will be composed of 80 members who do not come from parliament, which is the current biggest problem and source of outcry for political parties as we speak, particularly the Islamists & Conservatives. The members would come from a wide variety of sources, including unions, Al Azhar & Churches,  industrial chambers, human rights organizations, university professors, the police, judges, farmers, sports federations (yep, you know how sports are important for Egypt and all), public figures nominated by the cabinet, civil associations, party representatives & independents based on the ratios of party members in the parliament. The total must contain at least 10 women, and 5 also members whose age does not exceed 35 years. 

5- If the proposed constitution is seen by SCAF to contain articles that defy the basic rights and principles as stated in the Constitutional Principles Document & "All [Previous] successive Egyptian Constitutions", SCAF will ask the Constitutional Assembly to revise the texts within 15 days. If the Assembly fails to adjust the texts or refuses to comply with the initial request itself, the Supreme Constitutional Court would then revise the proposed texts & issue a binding judgement that even SCAF cannot refuse.

6- If no draft for a constitution is prepared within 6 months, SCAF may dissolve this committee and create a new one that has to draft a constitution within 3 months, which would then be subjected to a referendum.

Will comment later in more detail.


Update: Following pressures by Egypt's political forces, Dr. El Selmi has decided to amend the draft. AMAY reports the major amendments as follows:

"He explained that the amendments include omitting the word “solely” regarding the right of the armed forces to review their own affairs, and that the National Defense Council would have the right to supervise the budget of the armed forces.
He also said the council would be comprised of the People’s Assembly, Shura Council speakers, and the head of the Central Auditing Agency. 
According to the amendments, the constituent committee would include ten female members from women’s and human rights organizations, three representatives of Al-Azhar, another three from the church (rather than one), a member of the Book Authority and another from the Chamber of Tourism. 
Consultants and university professors would be reduced from 15 to 12 members each, while the prime minister would no longer nominate ten public figures for membership as was initially put forward in the document."

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