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Africa

Egyptian draft constitution restricts presidential terms

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-11-30

The panel drafting Egypt’s new constitution limited presidential incumbency to two four-year terms in a final vote on Friday. The constitutional draft now goes to the president for ratification before being put to a public referendum.

The assembly drafting Egypt’s new constitution agreed to limit the president’s incumbency to two four-year terms in a final vote on Friday, ending the system of unlimited tenure under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, who ruled for 30 years.

“The president of the republic shall be elected for four years, which begin on the day following the end of the term of his predecessor. He may be re-elected only once,” the article read.

The constitutional draft now goes to the president for ratification before being put to a public referendum within 15 days of the president's approval.

The Islamist-dominated panel began a fast-track vote on its final draft Thursday, pushing through the document despite a boycott by liberals in a move likely to stoke a deepening political crisis between the Islamist president and the opposition.

The assembly, overwhelmingly made up of allies of President Mohammed Morsi, abruptly moved up the vote - which hadn’t been expected to take place for another two months - in order to pass the draft before Egypt’s Supreme Constitution Court rules on Sunday on whether to dissolve the panel.

The vote escalates a confrontation that has already thrown Egypt into turmoil, between Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters on one side and a largely secular and liberal opposition and the nation’s judiciary on the other. It was sparked when Morsi last week granted himself near absolute powers to neutralize the judiciary, the last branch of the state not in his hands.

The confrontation has already led to street clashes between the two camps - and more violence is possible. At least 200,000 people protested in Cairo’s Tahrir square earlier this week against Morsi’s decrees.

The opposition plans another large protest for Friday, and the Brotherhood has called a similar massive rally for the following day.

Only a week ago, Morsi had given the 100-member panel two more months to try to iron out the sharp differences over the draft after his edicts barred the courts from dissolving the body. But when the Constitutional Court defied his decree and said Wednesday that it would rule on the panel’s legitimacy, the date of the vote was immediately moved up.

Over the past week, about 30 members have pulled out of the assembly to protest what they call the hijacking of the process by Islamists loyal to Morsi. As Thursday’s session began, the assembly held a vote to formally remove 11 of those who withdrew and replace them with reserve members - who largely belong to the Islamist camp. The 11 included former foreign minister and presidential candidate Amr Moussa, liberal politician Waheed Abdel-Maguid and two Christians.

As a result, as the members began voting on the draft article by article, each passed overwhelmingly. The draft largely reflects the conservative vision of the Islamists, with articles that rights activists, liberals and others fear will lead to restrictions on the rights of women and minorities and on civil liberties in general.

One article that passed underlined that the state will protect “the true nature of the Egyptian family ... and promote its morals and values,” as well as balance between a woman’s “duties to her family and her public work.” The draft also contains no article specifically establishing equality between men and women because of disputes over the phrasing.

As in past constitutions, the new draft says that the “principles of Islamic law” will be the basis of law. But in a new article, the draft states that Egypt’s most respected Islamic institution, Al-Azhar, must be consulted on any matters related to Shariah, a measure critics fear will lead to oversight of legislation by clerics.

Praising the draft, panel president Hossam al-Ghiryani, told members: “We will teach this constitution to our sons.”

Morsi is expected to call for a referendum on the draft as early as mid-December.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)
 

Date created : 2012-11-29

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