By Safaa Abdoun
CAIRO: The People’s Assembly approved Thursday amendments to the law regulating political rights participation in a bid to bar top officials from the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak from running for office.
“After a joint session was held between the legislation and constitution committee and the complaints and suggestions committee which went on to midnight, we approved adding a fourth clause to Article 3 to law 73 of the year 1956,” said MP Amr Hamzawy.
The committees’ meeting came after MPs agreed Wednesday that it would be better, politically and legally, to amend an existing law rather than introduce a new one seen to be specifically tailored to exclude two presidential candidates; Omar Suleiman and Ahmed Shafiq.
The amendments approved at Thursday’s emergency session stipulated barring for 10 years anyone who held the positions of president, vice president, prime minister, or head or secretary general of the National Democratic Party or as a member of its policies or general committees in the 10 years prior to Feb. 11, 2011 from practicing politics.
Political participation is defined here as voting and running in elections.
Hamzawy explained that the new amendment has avoided being ruled unconstitutional as the MPs have added it under Article 3 of the law which pertains to “suspending” the members of the ousted regime and not indefinitely banning them from running in elections.
It is also “for the welfare [of the public] in the time being given that we are in a post revolution period going through a transition to democracy,” he said.
Several MPs were apprehensive of the expansion of those who could be excluded, especially the part pertaining to former ministers. They argued that such expansion would be unjust and could be perceived as hostile by sectors of the society.
MPs expressed their approval of the new amendment and highlighted the importance of executing it to protect the country and the revolution. “We’re in a self defense situation,” said Councilor Mahmoud El-Khodeiry, head of the legislation and constitution committee.
“We are not in normal circumstances to abide by the law and constitution. We must protect Egypt using any means necessary,” he said, adding that ever since the revolution there have been efforts to pass the political exclusion law but “the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces disapproved, and then we find Omar Suleiman filing for candidacy under the protection of the military police.”
The discussions about the draft law came after ex-intelligence chief Suleiman, who was appointed vice president by Mubarak during the 2011 uprising, filed his candidacy papers for the presidential election. Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister appointed by Mubarak is also running.
The government representatives in the sessions reasserted their objection to the amendments, saying they violate Article 26 of the constitutional declaration.
“The law and all constitutions of the world and international agreements have protected human rights which include the political rights,” said Minister of State for Parliamentarian Affairs Mohamed Atteya.
Atteya also pointed out that tailoring a law for one person is illegal, something that is “taught in freshman year at law school.”
PA Speaker Saad El-Katatny criticized the minister for such a statement, saying it was an insult to the assembly.
“This amendment is unconstitutional,” said Minister of Justice Adel Abdel Hamid, who added that as a member of the National Council for Human Rights he is against this law.
“Nothing can prevent a person from practicing their political or civil rights except a court verdict that is issued after a complaint is filed to the prosecution office which investigates the issue and then a court rules on it,” he said.
The Freedom and Justice Party, which controls the majority at the parliament, is accused of only pushing for that law because Suleiman constituted strong competition to the party’s presidential candidate Khairat Al-Shater.
Several MPs on Thursday, however, insisted that the exclusion of certain figures of the ousted regime was long overdue and is part and parcel of any revolution.