Egypt’s parliament headed by Ali Abdel Aal received a request by a fifth of the members to amend a number of articles of the existing 2014 Constitution and referred it to the general committee for viewing, he said during a plenary session on Sunday.
He added that the general committee will be held late on Sunday to look into the request without the presence of any of the government’s representatives.
“No attendance will be allowed for the government during the meeting of the general committee, and discussion will only include the request,” said Abdel Aal, noting that the heads of various parliamentary committees will attend the meeting.
The request was referred to the general committee in accordance to article 144 of the internal bylaws of the council in order to check whether it aligns with constitutional article 226 related to amendments and with internal parliamentary bylaws, according to Abdel Aal.
The request was submitted by the Head of Egypt’s Support Coalition Abdel Hadi Al-Qasabi to the parliament speaker, including reasons and justifications for the proposed amendments.
Abdel Aal confirmed that the request will be forwarded for discussion if approved, and confirmed that he allows all members to express their views regarding the amending of the articles as well as all the political groups and parties.
“This amendment will take into consideration all the constitutional limitations and all the general principles, rules, and standards that are familiar in the amendment of the constitution,” Abdel Aal said commenting on the proposed amendments.
“I say this to everyone to know that we do not violate freedom of the constitution and do not violate the principle of equality, as well as interests of the state and Egyptian people, and that amendment comes for the interest of the Egyptian citizens and the state,” he also said.
Regarding the proposed amendments, the members suggested in their request the extension of the presidential term from six years to four years instead, returning the Shura Council but to have it be called the Senate Council, in addition to stipulating that representation of women in the parliamentary elections to be by 25%, and increasing the representation of youth, labour, persons with special needs, and Copts.
The amendments further included returning the ministry of information that was abolished after the 2011 Revolution, in place of the current media entities supervising the media and press in Egypt, and appointing two deputies for the president.
The move of the MPs came in accordance to constitutional article 226 which stipulates certain procedures in the case of an amendment.
The article stipulates that the president or a fifth of the members are able to amend one or two of the articles, only after filing a request specifying the articles to be amended and the reasons for the amendments to the head of parliament.
The parliament will discuss the request within 30 days from the date of its receipt. The House of Representatives issues its decision to accept the request in whole or in part by a majority of its members, according to the article, which also states that If the request is rejected, the same amendments may not be requested again before the next legislative term.
The parliament is currently running its fourth legislative term which kicked off last October and marks the one before the last for this parliamentary term.
If the amendment request is approved by the House of Representatives, it discusses the text of the articles to be amended within 60 days from the date of approval. If approved by a two-thirds majority of the House’s members, the amendment is put to a public referendum within 30 days from the date of approval.
Moreover, the same article stipulates that in all cases, articles related to the re-election of the president of the republic cannot be amended, which stirred controversy over the validity of taking any action regarding the article, unless the amendment offers more powers to the president.
Views of legal experts and political figures ranged from those who supported the amendment, justifying that the current constitution includes several flaws and is no longer aligned with the current circumstances of the state, believing that its amendment will benefit the public interest.
Meanwhile, opponents expressed their rejection for the move, justification that the 2014 Constitution is one of the revolution’s achievements.
Political analyst Tarek Fahmy told Daily News Egypt that the current constitution “is not aligned with the current stage and already includes constitutional flaws”, in support of its amendment.
“There are around 15 or 17 articles which really need to be amended, and I think there is no longer room for any political debate as the parliament has dissolved the issue by taking this [request] step,” he said adding that to avoid any division, there should be attempts to converge views of both sides.
On the other hand, renowned journalist and one of the founders of the Constitution Protection Committee, Gamal Fahmy told DNE, that he is not supporting the amendment, saying that the “the 2014 Constitution is one of the symbols of 25th January Revolution.”
Regarding the extension of the presidential period, he said that the amendment or referendum over the article “would be unconstitutional”, referring to the fifth paragraph of article 226 which restricts its amendment and constitutional article 175 which states that the president could call people to vote on the issue which would not be violating the constitutional articles.
On the legal side, Judge Ihab Ramzy told DNE that several articles of the constitution require amendments especially those related to the economic aspects, but we cannot apply changes for the article related to the presidential term only, unless we change the whole constitution and conduct a referendum over it.
However, Ramzy supported the return of the Shura Council, saying that “during the past few years the parliament approved dozens of laws, which it does not consider as a big achievement since many of these laws are not well formulated.”
He continued that “the Shura Council is important in assisting the legislative process in the country, as it will include seniors with different expertise who help in formulating the laws in ways more satisfying for all concerned bodies.”
The legal experts further suggested that the period of the presidential term be equivalent to the parliamentary term.
Calls for amending the constitution is not the first of its kind, members of parliament along with legal experts have long been suggesting changing the constitution as it was suitable for the interim phase followed by two re-evaluations, not for the current one. Abdel Aal previously said that, “the constitution does not satisfy the aspirations of the Egyptians.”
The move came only a few days after Amr Mousa’s statements, who was the chairperson of the 50-member committee which drafted the current constitution, stating that amendments are possible in certain conditions.
In December, lawyer Ayman Abdel Hakim, along with five other lawyers, filed a lawsuit to the Cairo Court of Urgent Matters, in order to amend the existing constitutional article 140 which limits the president’s duration in office to two terms.