Factbox: Proposed changes to Egypt's constitution

Sat Feb 26, 2011 2:11pm EST

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(Reuters) - Legal experts Saturday unveiled proposed changes to Egypt's constitution upon the request of the military council which has been governing the country since mass protests ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The proposed amendments will be put up for public debate through the media, army officers have said, before a referendum to approve them to be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections. Egypt's constitution was suspended after the military council took power.

Some opposition figures and jurists say the entire document must be rewritten from scratch.

Here are details of some relevant articles from the constitution and the amendments:

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES (ARTICLE 76)

Under this article only a handful of candidates could stand in presidential elections that were due in September -- one from Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) and others from small recognized parties with little weight. In theory, independents could also stand but would need endorsements from 250 elected officials, including 65 members of the lower house. Parliament is now dissolved.

Under the proposed draft, presidential candidates must either have: the support of 30 members of parliament; or the backing of 30,000 eligible voters across about half of the country's governorates; or be nominated by a registered political party with at least one member elected to either the upper or lower house of parliament.

TERM LIMITS FOR THE PRESIDENT (ARTICLE 77)

The suspended constitution allowed the president to seek re-election indefinitely. Mubarak was in his fifth six-year term. The opposition wanted to limit the president to two terms in office, as in many democratic countries.

The draft proposed a curb on the length of the president's term to four years and imposed a two-term limit on a leader.

THE CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS (ARTICLE 88)

Under the current article, an appointed election committee that includes judges and public figures supervises the election. The opposition had wanted constitutional changes to deter election rigging, a practice widespread for decades. The most important step would be to reinstate the principle of judicial supervision, eliminated from the constitution in 2007 (Article 88).

The change restored full judicial supervision.

COURT RULINGS ON RIGGED VOTES (ARTICLE 93)

The article says that only parliament can rule on the eligibility of people to service in the assembly. The NDP majority has used this to ignore court rulings invalidating the election of some parliamentarians.

The change gives the supreme constitutional court the right to rule on the eligibility of people to become parliament members.

APPOINTMENT OF VICE PRESIDENT (ARTICLE 139)

Under the current article, the president of the republic may appoint one or more vice-presidents, define their jurisdiction and relieve them of their posts. The rules relating to the calling to account of the president of the republic shall be applicable to the vice-presidents.

The drafted amendments say the president must appoint a vice president within 60 days from taking office. In the situation that the post of vice presidency is empty, the president is obliged to appoint another deputy immediately.

EMERGENCY LAWS (ARTICLE 148)

Under the current constitution, the president can call a state of emergency but it has to be approved by the parliament.

The change says the president must present the announcement of a state of emergency to parliament within seven days. It must then be approved by a majority. It says 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.

PRESIDENT'S USE OF MILITARY JUSTICE (ARTICLE 179)

This article allows the president to transfer any case concerning "terror" to any judicial body, which gives him the right to use military courts. The government has long used military courts in cases they said concerned national security and Islamist violence where verdicts are swifter.

A decades-old state of emergency, which the army-led administration has pledged to end, also allows for trying civilians in military courts.

The draft proposes the cancellation of the article.

AMENDING THE CONSTITUTION (ARTICLE 189)

The rules say the president can ask parliament to approve an constitutional amendment or parliament can propose its own amendments. But all amendments must be approved in a referendum.

The proposed change adds that 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.

(Writing by Yasmine Saleh)

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Comments (7)
1964 wrote:
These changes seem progressive and give rise to hope that the Egyptian people will live towards a better future.

Feb 26, 2011 10:23pm EST  --  Report as abuse
abc27 wrote:
What about the removal of Article 2 which states that the religion of the state is Islam?

If the state is the people, how can it be Islamic when only 80% of the people are Muslim?

Feb 28, 2011 5:22pm EST  --  Report as abuse
nAmzrTakin wrote:
@ abc27: I hardly think that’s an issue in a muslim majority society, just like it’s not in the U.S which is a Christian majority.

If the states are the people, how can it be christan when only 80% of the people are Christian?

These changes are a giant leap toward making Egypt a tryly democratic role model for the middle-east. And it’s all been brought about by the “islamic” people. I say “Welcome to the free world”

Feb 28, 2011 7:28pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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