By Tamim Elyan
CAIRO: The National Council issued Tuesday a unified draft list of constitutional principles and another set of guidelines for choosing the constituent assembly that will draft the new constitution.
Both documents are to be presented to the ruling military council.
The list of constitutional principles, which contains 10 articles, combines 10 separate proposals previously prepared by various groups.
It was based on others proposed by presidential hopefuls Mohamed ElBaradei and Hisham Al-Bastaweesy, Al-Azhar, the National Reconciliation Conference, the Democratic Alliance, the National Council and human rights groups. It also includes a bill prepared by women’s rights activists, another dubbed the “Future of Egypt”, and one presented by the People’s Committee for the Egyptian Constitution.
The document stipulates that Egypt is a civil, democratic state and that the principles of Sharia are the main source for legislation, while giving followers of other faiths the right to resort to their own laws in personal affairs.
It further states that Egypt will follow a democratic republican political system based on citizenship rights and equality and that authority is for the people and the rule of law.
It emphasizes the separation of authorities, while at the same time stipulates reciprocal monitoring, rotation of power and independence of the judiciary to guarantee the rule of law. It also includes articles stipulating public ownership of strategic facilities and special protection for the Nile water.
The bill also states that the national economy is based on comprehensive and sustainable development and guarantees justice in the distribution of national wealth and the revenues of development.
It grants the rights of belief and practice of religion, social justice in all fields, holding public posts based on proficiency, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of private life and ownership for all citizens.
The draft unified document, prepared by Judge Tahany Al-Gebaly, deputy head of the Supreme Constitutional Court and member of the National Council, was presented during a conference organized by the National Council which brought together political powers and presidential candidates.
However, no representative of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) were present, despite being invited.
The document also includes a binding article that gives political parties, the National Council for Human Rights, civil society organizations and professional and labor syndicates the right to challenge any violation of these principles before the Supreme Constitutional Court.
It also gives the Supreme Constitutional Court the authority to monitor any constitutional amendments related to these principles and bans any interpretation of its articles that contradict with the International Declaration on Human Rights.
Al-Gebaly said that these constitutional principles must be enshrined in the upcoming constitution and must be protected from any modifications.
Presidential hopeful Amr Moussa disagreed on calling the principles “ultra constitutional” and said that they should be integrated in the constitution in order to be truly representative.
“There is a difference between basic principles — ultra constitutional principles — governing the constitution which can’t be modified and general constitutional articles that can be modified,” Al-Gebaly said.
A final document will be drafted based on the discussion during the conference, according to Al-Gebaly, and will be presented to the SCAF as a consensus document to be added to the constitutional decree or to put it to a referendum.
The council also presented guidelines on how to choose the constituent assembly that will be tasked with drafting the constitution following the parliamentary elections.
The proposal stipulates that the elected parliament choose all 100 members from outside the parliament, 80 of them representing political, religious, social, intellectual streams through nomination by their respective syndicates or groups. The remaining twenty would be public figures and constitutional experts who enjoy public consensus.
The members of the assembly must fulfill the requirements of parliament membership and will be deprived of holding any political or representative posts for five years to prevent the influence of personal interest.
The assembly’s sessions would be aired live on state television and would have a secretariat to receive suggestions and comments from the public. It will be expected to publish the draft constitution and open it to public debate one month before the referendum.