PA gives preliminary approval to 34 constitutional amendments

Yasmine Saleh
5 Min Read

CAIRO: Despite the disapproval of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) block in parliament, as well as that of a number of opposition and independent MPs, the PA gave its preliminary green light to constitutional amendments suggested by President Hosni Mubarak late last year.

The Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported that Parliament Speaker Fathi Sorour announced after the Jan. 18 vote, that 316 deputies – more than two-thirds of the 454-seat assembly – approved the 34 constitutional amendments, but did not say how many voted against them or abstained.

It is strange that the speaker did not announce the full results of the vote, including how many were against, how many abstained and how many were absent, Hamdy Hassan, spokesman for the MB parliamentary block told the Associated Press.

He estimated that at least 103 deputies opposed the amendments.

The opposing MPs include independents, the 88 MB-affiliated members, and a representative from each one of the following political parties: Al Tagammu, Al Wafd and Al Watany, Hassan told The Daily Star Egypt.

One hundred and three members opposed the changes. But the National Democratic Party (NDP) has the majority of seats. So the decision came in favor of it and the changes, said Hamdy Hassan, Brotherhood MP.

Hossam Bahgat, president of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told The Daily Star Egypt that there is still hope for real reform when the PA begins to debate the phrasing of the amended articles, which according to him is the most important stage.

The vote merely reflects approval of the principle of changing the 34 articles, Bahgat said.

[The results] were not a surprise since the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) controls the majority of seats, he added.

According to Egypt State Information Services (SIS), Mahmoud Abaza, head of Al-Wafd party, generally agrees on the amendments adding that he would take part in discussing these articles. SIS also reported that Abaza’s opinion found support with independent MPs.

We can’t reject the concept of [constitutional] amendment, Al Wafd MP Mohamed Shardy was quoted as saying the party’s official paper. We agree that the articles need to change. But we disagree with the phrasing and with some articles out of concern over personal freedoms.

But the divide in the PA was evident in the way the voting and the amendments are perceived.

The amendments are all fake and do not signal real change in the constitution, Hassan said.

He added that three of the requested changes go against the principals of true democracy and political development and were initiated to guarantee the complete authority of the President and the NDP.

Hassan refers to the changes made to Article 88, which will cancel judicial supervision over elections; Article 5, which will prohibit any political activity based on religion; and Article 76, which still, in effect, does not allow independents to run for presidential elections.

Canceling the supervision of the legal system means killing the opposition’s voice in parliament, Hassan said.

Hassan alleges that during the last legislative elections held in December 2005 under the legal system s supervision, the NDP only won 34 percent of the seats; the rest, he claims, were obtained when independent candidates joined the NDP after securing their seats.

They claim the amendments will mean that the government must seek confidence from the People’s Assembly, which has the power to dissolve Cabinet. But which parliament are they talking about? The fake one selected through rigged elections not subject to judicial monitoring? Hassan said.

From the NDP’s perspective, however, the changes are a step forward towards political development and democracy, NDP MP Mohamed Khalil Kwaitah told The Daily Star Egypt.

The changes seek to implement the concept of citizenship and equality, giving more space to women to participate in political life and entrench the rule of law, Kwaitah said.

The illegal Muslim Brotherhood group wants nothing but to oppose for the sake of opposition. To them it’s all about making political splashes, Kwaitah said. They do not have national interest in mind.

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