The 50-member Constituent Assembly tasked with amending the suspended 2012 constitution voted on Thursday evening on terminating the Shura Council.
In a closed session that reportedly lasted for nearly five hours, 23 assembly members voted for the cancellation of the upper house of parliament while 19 members voted for keeping it. Two members, including the Armed Forces representative Magd Al-Din Barakat, abstained from voting while six members were absent from the session.
Among the more ardent supporters of keeping the Shura Council was Constituent Assembly Chairman Amr Moussa, reported the official website of Egypt’s state television. Lawyers’ Syndicate Head Sameh Ashour and Cairo University Chairman Gaber Nassar meanwhile lobbied for scraping the council off the new constitution.
The Constituent Assembly began voting on drafted articles in closed sessions two weeks ago. Once the assembly approves an article, it is sent to the 10-member Legal Experts’ Committee to revise its legal drafting. The committee then refers the approved and revised articles back to the Constituent Assembly, which conducts a final vote on them using the 75% vote-mechanism to pass articles.
Egypt’s last Shura Council was elected in early 2012 to be composed of an Islamist majority. Only 7% of the population took part in the Shura Council’s elections. The 2012 constitution stated that the Shura Council will be made of a minimum of 150 members, 10% of them to be appointed by the president.
Right before the constitution passed in December 2012, former President Mohamed Morsi appointed 90 new council members. The 2012 constitution gave the Shura Council legislative powers pending the election of a new lower house of parliament. The Peoples’ Assembly was earlier dissolved in June 2012 due to a ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court deeming it unconstitutional.
The 2012 constitution also bestowed new legislative powers on the council in general, in addition to the ones it held during the transitional period.
The earliest appearance of an upper house of parliament in Egypt dates back to 1866. The Shura Council, in its present form, began functioning in 1980 after the majority of the people voted in favour of creating it in a referendum proposing amendments to the 1971 constitution in 1979.
The council’s jurisdiction mainly involved proposing bills and preparing advisory opinions on them. Its existence was widely criticised due to the large expenses needed to maintain it, especially when weighed against its productivity.