CAIRO: Presidential elections, the emergency law and compensation and justice for the martyrs of the Jan. 25 uprising are expected to lead discussions at the People’s Assembly Tuesday, with the prime minister and interior minister in attendance.
"We will discuss everything related to retrieving the martyrs’ rights including the compensation and the ongoing trials of those accused of killing the protesters," MP Mohamed Abu Hamed, member of the executive bureau of the Free Egyptians Party, told Daily News Egypt.
The parliament formed a fact-finding commission during a heated session last week to investigate the killing of protesters last January. Abu Hamed had called for including violations by the ruling military council since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak as part of the investigation.
While the trial of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, the former interior minister and his top aides is ongoing, a number of police officers charged with killing protesters near police stations have been acquitted.
Abu Hamed said that his party would propose that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) open the door for presidential elections candidacy after the Shoura elections.
"Following the Jan.25 and Jan.27 demonstrations, the (protesters’) demands must be addressed and SCAF must hold presidential elections as soon as possible," he said.
To mark the anniversary of the Jan. 25 uprising, protesters took to the streets in the thousands demanding a swift handover of power to civilians. Protesters presented two proposals: either to hold presidential elections immediately or handover power to PA Speaker Saad Al-Katatny and hold presidential elections 60 days later. The common thread is to write the new constitution after SCAF cedes power.
Hundreds of protesters have remained in Tahrir Square since Friday, reiterating that they won’t leave until SCAF heeds their demands.
Abdallah Moghazy, assistant secretary general of the SCAF-appointed advisory council, said in an interview with CBC channel on Sunday night that the council agreed to a proposal to open registration for presidential elections in March instead of April.
The new president would be elected by May instead of June, which was the previous timeline set by SCAF. The advisory council would propose this to the PA for approval, according to Moghazy.
However, Hamed said that this wasn’t enough because it entails writing the constitution in less than one month. Activists are calling for drafting the constitution after the presidential elections, citing the scenario proposed in the approved March referendum.
The first stage of the Shoura elections kicked off on Sunday and the second stage is slated for Feb. 14-15. The Shoura Council will be seated on Feb.28.
Both houses of parliament will be responsible for electing the 100-member Constituent Assembly which will write the new constitution.
Sameh Ashour, deputy head of the advisory council and head of the Lawyers’ Syndicate, suggested in a statement released Monday that the PA elect the constituent Assembly immediately without the Shoura Council, in order to save one month of the transitional period.
He added that in case the constituent assembly fails to issue a constitution before presidential elections, an interim president could be elected for one year to handle the transition.
Ashour noted that this was a personal statement which didn’t represent the advisory council or the Syndicate.
A document circulating online alleged that the SCAF issued the presidential elections law on Jan. 19, days before the PA convened for the first time. The document is allegedly a scan of the official state paper, in which the government publishes its laws and announcements.
General Mamdouh Shahin, a member of the ruling military council, said that the law was issued by SCAF ahead of parliament’s first session, which was held January 23.
"Parliament has the right to review all laws or declarations issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces," Shahin told reporters.
He said that the registration date for candidates is yet to be decided by the election commission. Earlier this month, SCAF said that candidates for the presidency can start registering from April 15.
The official news agency said Monday that according to the head of the Supreme Constitution Court, preparations for the presidential elections are to commence next week.
SCAF has been under fire from the PA lately for approving a law to nominate the head of Al-Azhar, an infringement on the PA’s legislative authorities. The ruling council also annulled the emergency law on Jan.24, one day before mass protests were scheduled to commemorate the Jan.25 revolt. This too falls under the PA’s powers.
The Azhar law states that a Council of Senior Scholars will be responsible for electing the head of Al-Azhar, although the council is appointed by the head of Al-Azhar, Ahmed El-Tayyeb, and not elected.
Experts said that this law guarantees that El-Tayyeb would stay in power for the rest of his life.
"We will consider any law that SCAF issues on its own, without referring to the PA, as invalid," said MP Margaret Azer, member of Al-Wafd’s executive bureau.
Abu Hamed echoed Azer’s agreed, saying that they "want to study all laws issued by SCAF during this transitional period to decide whether to annul them or approve them."
On its part, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights sent a letter to the PA on Monday demanding that it reviews the decree issued by SCAF to annul the emergency law excluding acts of thuggery.
Abu Hamed said that the PA would review the term thuggery and what it entails, in addition to issuing a law to halt the military trials of civilians.
Rights groups claim that around 12,000 civilians have been referred to military trials ever since SCAF took power on Feb.11.
As a response, SCAF reportedly referred the case of the Kuwaiti Egyptian company, accused of violations in using land reserved for agriculture for housing projects, to avoid repeating the wave of criticism resulting from Al-Azhar’s law.
However, both Hamed and Azer said this case wasn’t on the PA’s list of topics for Tuesday’s meeting, adding that they couldn’t confirm whether or not his case was in fact referred to the PA.
On his part, MP and leading member of Al-Wasat Party, Essam Sultan, proposed a draft law to retrieve state money which was smuggled out of the country by officials of the former corrupt regime, according to a statement issued on Al-Wasat Party’s website on Sunday.
Sultan sent a memo to El-Katatny, requesting that the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Fayza Aboul Naga attend the PA meeting to clarify her previous statements and discuss what more can be done to retrieve the smuggled money.
Aboul Naga stated in a conference on Jan. 26 that the government was awaiting final court verdicts to officially request the return of the smuggled money.
Elections for the heads of the PA’s 19 sub-committees are expected to continue on Tuesday as well. Several parties including Al-Wafd and The Free Egyptians boycotted these elections because Islamists dominated the seats.
"The elections are taking place using the same methods of the former National Democratic Party (NDP) and we refuse this," said Hamed.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Salafi Al-Nour parties, won 72 percent of the PA seats.
Al-Wafd came in third place in the elections winning around nine percent of the seats, while the Free Egyptians and its coalition the Egyptian Bloc came in fourth place.
Leading FJP member and MP Mohamed El-Beltagi previously said that the heads of the committees will be nominated according to the percentage of seats won by each party, with an agreement that all parties will be represented based on candidates’ efficiency and competence.
Several political parties including Al-Nour and the FJP agreed to this arrangement earlier this month.