National Council presents amended bill of constitutional principles

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By Tamim Elyan

CAIRO: The National Council released Thursday a third draft of its bill of constitutional principles, identifying Egypt as a civil and modern state while restricting the authorities of the president.

The bill, prepared by a group of constitutional and legal experts, kept the second article of the constitution identifying Islam as the religion of the state and Islamic Sharia as the main source of legislation.

However, the bill added constitutional guarantees for this principle giving non-Muslims the right to refer to their religions for personal affairs and allowed the legislator to choose from the rulings of Sharia in accordance with the general interest and under the supervision of the Supreme Constitutional Court.

It determined mechanisms to protect the civil state by banning any future modifications in constitutional articles related to the identity of the state and the republican system and by assigning the Armed Forces as the protector of the republican, civil and democratic identity of the state.

The National Council comprises public figures who participated at the “Egypt First Conference” last April.

Several groups have started similar initiatives aimed at influencing the constituent assembly that will eventually draft Egypt’s new constitution. Presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei presented a 17-article charter outlining the principals that would govern the constitution. Another initiative is in the works to get Egyptians to voice their aspirations in what should be included in the constitution.

The National Council wants its bill to be the basis for the new constitution. It will be presented for discussion in universities, political parties and professional and workers’ syndicates.

The first draft was put on the National Council website and was open for public discussion followed by a second draft discussed at the conference.

A press conference to announce the issuance of the bill scheduled for Thursday was postponed to Saturday because of clashes in Tahrir Square a day earlier.

The bill called for putting articles in the constitution specifying the legal state of the president including the separation between his post as head of the country and the political party; the election of a vice president with the president; preventing the president from dealing financially with the state, directly or indirectly; and stipulating transparency regarding the president’s fortune.

It suggested holding the president responsible legally and politically in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court and preventing any family member to the third degree from running for presidency until after one presidential round.

It adopted a single council parliamentary system cancelling the Shoura Council (upper house of parliament).

The bill determined the closed proportional roster as the electoral system and suggested organizing a referendum to either keep the 50 percent quota for workers and farmers or cancel it

It called for a balanced political sphere between the majority and the minority — so that no political group dominates the political system and diminishes any will of the opposition by allowing heads of parliamentary blocs to become members of supreme councils for national security and foreign relations.

The bill gave constitutional protection for natural resources allowing their usage through BOT contracts under the ownership of the state.

It stressed on the independence of the judiciary, preventing any intervention from the executive authority and banning military trials for civilians.

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