CAIRO: Two MPs withdrew from the parliament’s constitutional and legislative committee Tuesday in objection to the committee’s insistence on maintaining the current version of a law regulating presidential elections.
Article 28 of the constitutional declaration in place since March 30 says the decisions of the presidential elections supreme committee cannot be appealed, and assigns the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court as the head of the committee.
Following discussions on Monday, members of the legislative committee were supposed to decide Tuesday whether to call upon the military rulers to amend the constitutional declaration, or to urge one third of MPs to call for its amendment in the People’s Assembly.
When the committee decided against the amendment, MPs Mamdouh Ismail of the ultraconservative Al-Asala Party reportedly accused his fellow committee members of colluding with the military rulers. Together with Aboul Ezz El-Hariry of the Socialist Popular Coalition Party, they stormed out of the meeting room.
However, judge Mahmoud El-Khodeiry, head of the subcommittee, downplayed the dispute.
“It was a normal and simple argument,” he said briefly. “You cannot say they withdrew; they only left to attend the PA session”.
As for Article 28, El-Khodeiry said that the PA has no right to demand its amendment since it was approved through a public referendum. “We will need another referendum to change it,” he added.
Committee member Hatem Azzam, of the Freedom and Justice Party, explained that holding another referendum means the military council would stay in power for longer, which the committee members were against.
In the March 19 referendum on amendments to the 1971 constitution, article 76 was subject to some changes. While there was a general approval of the amendments pertaining to easing requirements for presidential candidacy, the part referring to the make-up and the decisions of the supervising elections committee remained intact.
The text of article 76 in its entirety was carried over two articles and became part of a longer constitutional declaration issued by the ruling military council later the same month.
Article 28 of the declaration regulates the supervising committee’s work.
According to Mohamed Shehata, law professor at Ain Shams University and El-Khodeiry’s spokesman, this article was issued before the 2005 presidential elections to serve then-president Hosni Mubarak’s interests.
Azzam said the MPs wouldn’t seek disciplinary action against Ismail for accusing them of colluding with the ruling military council.
MP Saad Abboud criticized the fact that the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court is also the head of the presidential election committee, and is theoretically the same person who would rule on appeals against the committee’s decisions, according to Al-Youm Al-Sabe’ newspaper.
The committee was to discuss on Monday a draft law submitted by MPs Mohamed Al-Omda and Gamal Hanafi to amend some provisions regulating the vote-counting process in the presidential election.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had issued a law regulating the presidential election four days before the recently elected People’s Assembly was seated, triggering a wave of condemnation by the newly-elected MPs.
On Monday, MPs expressed reservation about the integrity of the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court Farouk Soltan, who also heads the presidential electoral committee.
“We trust members of the electoral committee who are all respectable judges. If anyone has evidence to support allegations against them he should present it,” Shehata said.
Ismail and El-Hariry could not be reached for comment by press time.