By Dina Zayed/Reuters
CAIRO: An Egyptian judge in charge of a panel to change the constitution ahead of polls in six months’ time said on Monday that the amendments it had agreed provided adequate legal guarantees for free and fair elections.
The proposed changes would open up competition for the post of president which Hosni Mubarak held for 30 years, limit office holders to two, four-year presidential terms and ensure judicial oversight of elections.
“From a constitutional perspective and in our legal assessment, these are enough guarantees for free and fair elections,” judge Tarek El-Beshry told Reuters. “These are the changes needed for a transitional period.”
The proposed reforms will make it much easier for Egyptians to run for the presidency, removing requirements which made it almost impossible for anyone but the ruling party and members of weak opposition parties to field a candidate for the post.
“The most important restriction to presidential powers in any state is not the size of their powers but the time available to them to exercise it,” El-Beshry said in an interview.
There will also be a new constitution, a demand many Egyptians say the country needs, he said, adding that the proposed amendments mandated full constitutional reforms be prioritized and finalized by an elected parliament.
“Not only have the terms been restricted, starting from the president’s first day in office, he or she and the state will be busy drafting a new constitution,” El-Beshry said.
The referendum will be scheduled next month, as soon as public debate over the proposed amendments ends, El-Beshry said, adding that he did thought it would be “no more than two to three weeks from now.”
Voting will be with national identification cards rather than a confusing voting card system, which opposition activists and voters said discouraged participation, and would be supervised by the judiciary.
There would not be separate votes on each amendment, just one vote on the changes in their entirety, he said.
Elections to both the upper and lower chambers would follow the constitutional referendum which they expect to pass the changes, El-Beshry said, and presidential elections would happen after that. All three votes should take place within the six-month period mandated by the army.
El-Beshry said Egypt was working with a short timeframe.
“Six months is a short period to build mature, widespread and ideologically well-rounded parties that have strong grassroots support,” Bishri said.
“Political parties, when given the freedom to form, will grow faster and more effectively than in times of political stagnation like what we were in before,” he added. –Additional reporting by Mohamed Zaki