Egypt committee proposes 8-year cap on presidency

CAIRO Sat Feb 26, 2011 9:40am EST

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CAIRO (Reuters) - A judicial committee formed to draft changes to Egypt's constitution on Saturday proposed capping to eight years the time a president can stay in office and loosening the rules that curbed competition for the post.

Tariq al-Bishri, head of the judicial committee formed by Egypt's ruling military council, said the amendments to be put to a public referendum included reducing the presidential term to four years and imposing a two-term limit. President Hosni Mubarak was serving in his fifth, six-year term when he was toppled by a mass uprising on February 11.

Under the amendments, the future president would also need to appoint a deputy within 60 days of taking office. Mubarak kept the post empty until the very end of his rule, when he appointed intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Bishri said presidential candidates must either have: the support of 30 members of parliament; or the backing of 30,000 eligible voters across about half 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.

The constitutional amendments are to be put to a national referendum ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has promised to hold within six months.

Elections would be subject to judicial supervision -- one of the main demands of protesters and opposition groups behind the demonstrations that forced Mubarak to step down and hand power to the armed forces.

The proposed amendments will make it complicated for a president to maintain the state of emergency -- in place for decades -- which opposition activists want lifted as part of their broad demands for reform to Egypt's autocratic system of government.

The state of emergency is still in place, though the military council has said it will lift it within six months.

Bishri said amendments to 11 articles of the constitution would be put to a referendum and a new charter would be drawn up after elections.

(Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Caroline Drees)

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