By Marwa Al-A’asar
CAIRO: The army is expected to announce the date of the referendum on the recommended constitutional amendments next week, lawyer Sobhi Saleh told Daily News Egypt Sunday.
“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces told us during the discussions that they wish to finalize this issue before end of March. So it is logical to announce their decision next week,” Saleh, a constitutional committee member, added.
The army suspended the constitution on Feb. 13 after it assumed power when former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down two days earlier while serving his sixth term.
On Saturday, the committee members recommended easing restrictions on who can run for president and imposing presidential term limits, two key demands frequently called for by politicians, opposition groups and civil society yet were long ignored by Mubarak.
They were originally assigned by the council to amend five articles and call off one more but ended up adjusting eight, canceling one and adding two.
Most of the suggested articles have to do with legislative and presidential elections and parliamentary and presidential jurisdictions.
The legal experts suggested lifting restrictions on who can run, opening the door for independents and small opposition groups to field candidates.
A president can only run for two terms, four years each, and cannot be re-elected, the committee suggested.
“After serving for two terms, the president shall not have the right to run … again and forever,” committee head Tarek El-Beshry told reporters at a press conference Saturday.
The proposed Article 76 also set a minimum age for a presidential candidate of 40 years.
According to the committee, candidates are eligible to run if they collect 30,000 signatures from at least 15 governorates in Egypt, with a minimum of 1,000 supporters in each, if they can get recommendations from 30 members of parliament, or if their party has at least one seat in parliament.
Previously, Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party had control over who could run, ensuring his lock on power.
The president is committed to appointing a vice president within 60 days after taking office, the committee recommended.
Mubarak had served without a vice president until assigning intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to the post, a day after the “Day of Rage” protests on Jan. 28 in a bid to appease protesters.
Yet Mubarak’s attempts never paid off, as protesters continued taking to the streets of Cairo and other governorates all over Egypt until he stepped down. Suleiman is no longer the vice president.
“Article 76 [that governs presidential candidacy and elections] was the most complicated of them all,” Saleh said.
“We had to compare it with similar ones in other constitutions [to reach a conclusion],” he added.
Saleh said that the army commanders raised several concerns with the committee over its suggestions.
“But we clarified that the proposed articles are based on [legal] research rather than personal opinions and they were quite understanding,” he said.
The amendments also include allowing full judicial supervision of the electoral process, starting with preparing rosters, to declaring results — which practically denies the ministry of interior oversight.
The interior ministry was recurrently accused of vote-rigging in favor of the ruling National Democratic Party.
The recommendations did not directly address reforms to the law governing the formation of political parties.
One article suggested redrafting a new constitution through a general assembly within six months.
Another proposed that a president has to seek the unanimous approval of the People’s Assembly (the Lower House of Parliament) to impose a state of emergency in the country.
An emergency state cannot be active for more than six months and it can only be extended through a public referendum, the committee suggested.
The Egyptian constitution is made of 211 articles. It was adopted in 1971 and amended in 1980, 2005 and 2007. –Additional reporting by AP