Saturday, February 26, 2011

Egypt and Democracy: First Draft of Amendments for Constitution

Commission announces proposed changes to Egyptian Constitution

An army-appointed legal commission announced Saturday a package of proposed constitutional amendments that eased restrictions on eligibility conditions for presidential elections, limited the number of presidential terms to two four-year periods and ensured full judicial monitoring of elections.

To satisfy political forces calling for the promulgation of a new constitution, the commission made it compulsory for the next parliament to draft one.

There are still issues with this from my perspective:

Meanwhile, article 76 was modified to ease draconian restrictions on presidential nominations. The commission set three methods for candidacy: a presidential hopeful should either be endorsed by 30 members from one of the parliament’s two chambers or both, garner 30,000 signatures from Egyptians living in 15 provinces or belong to a party that has at least one seat in the People’s Assembly or the Shura Council.

The problem, to me, is that they still have to get any "endorsement" from 30 members of one of Parliament's two chambers. On one hand, there may be the need to ensure that any president can be somewhat beholden to or work with parties in parliament, but the current parliament is officially disbanded (I believe) and, even if those seats remain, are stock full of NDP associates. Whether it is 250 endorsements or 30 endorsements, it makes for trouble. Why can't a potential candidate simply declare, raise the signatures and money and be endorsed from their political party as the candidate?

One way or the other, it seems like an attempt to limit participation.

The other amendments include term limits for the president, rules requiring the president to be married to an Egyptian (born of two Egyptian parents), limit on the ability to declare Emergency Law to require parliamentary approval and, if more than six months, must be approved by public referendum (ugghh! democracy gone mad, but I understand where it comes from), independent judiciary oversight of the entire electoral process (as opposed to presidential appointed judiciary committee) and among the other items, sets in motion a total review of the constitution by the next parliament.

I definitely do not like the "Shura Council" as any sort of deciding body in parliament and neither should any liberal leaning folks. Shura is, ostensibly, a body of religious scholars or lawyers who would insure that all laws meet Islamic religious law (Sharia). They are either elected (?) or appointed by the president. Under the Iranian example and Bahrain, they act as a vetoing body, instead of consultative. Egypt law has it as "consultative".

In either event, it allows religion to do more than be a faith to base principles on to an actual political power. One that can create its own political power and threaten the legitimacy of any democratic government.

Otherwise, the other aspects of the amendments pretty much fall in line with the protesters' demands.

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