CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday said he was proposing the cancellation of articles 76, 77, 88, 93, 179 and 189 of the constitution.
Here is an explanation of the relevant articles.
* Article 76 on candidates for president:
Under this article of the existing constitution only a handful of candidates can stand in the next presidential elections, which are due by 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 they would need endorsements from 250 elected officials, including 65 members of the lower house of parliament, where the NDP has a stranglehold.
The opposition wants to open the system up to include independent politicians able to challenge the NDP candidate — people such as former U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei and current Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa.
The existing constitution allows the president to seek re-election indefinitely. Mubarak is now on his fifth term. The opposition wants to limit the president to two terms in office, as in many democratic countries.
The opposition wants constitutional changes to deter election rigging, a widespread practice for many decades. The most important step would be to reinstate the principle of judicial supervision eliminated from the constitution in 2007 (Article 88).
They would also like to restructure the Presidential Election Commission, the composition of which is weighted in favor of whoever controls parliament (Article 76).
Another constitutional provision which could help reduce electoral abuses would be to abolish the principle in Article 93 that only parliament can rule on the eligibility of its members. The NDP majority has used this to ignore court rulings invalidating election results.
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 concerning national security and Islamist violence where verdicts are swifter. The emergency laws also allow for trying civilians in military courts.
The rules say the president can ask parliament to approve an amendment or parliament can propose its own amendments. But all amendments must be approved in a referendum.
After almost 60 years under three presidents with sweeping powers, many Egyptian civil society groups say they would prefer a system with more checks and balances and a less powerful presidency.
The popular uprising against Mubarak has shown that the constitution is inadequate for dealing with crises of this kind. Constitutionally it is almost impossible to change the electoral system unless Mubarak stays in office.