I rarely disclose my vote in elections or referendums, the exception being in cases when I feel that disclosure carries to my readers a message I am under obligation to publish. In such instances, I make my vote public following, not preceding, the poll.
Now that the referendum on the constitutional amendments is over—it was held on 20 – 22 April and resulted in an 88 per cent vote in favour of the amendments, with a 44 per cent turnout—it is time for me to say that I voted ‘yes’ for the proposed amendments and to explain my reasons for doing so. I will go through the amended articles one by one, with my viewpoint regarding each.
Article 102 concerns the House of Representatives; the following text was added: “At least a quarter of the total number of seats shall be allocated to women”. I approve this amendment since I support wider women representation in parliament. I also look forward to the day when, through active participation in political life, women would win half the seats. Women constitute half the society and warrant the same proportion in representation.
Article 150 bis concerns the right of the President of the Republic to appoint one or more vice-presidents, specify their competencies, and delegate some of his tasks to them. I endorse this addition since it provides the president with aid and support in his work, and roots the principle of power sharing as opposed to single-handed individual authority.
Articles 185 – 189 – 190 – 193 all uphold the independence of judicial institutions, their laws, bylaws and budgets. These articles define the mechanisms of selection and appointment of the heads of judicial institutions; the President of the Republic selects one candidate from a list presented to him. I endorse these amendments since they establish the independence of the judicial authority, and restraint the President of the Republic and both the legislative and administrative authorities from encroaching on the judiciary.
Article 200 concerns the armed forces, upholding its role in protecting the nation and preserving its security and the safety of its lands. A highly important paragraph was added to the current article; it reads: “..and preserving the Constitution and democracy, preserving the country’s main features and its civic nature, the gains of the people and the rights and freedom of individuals”. I endorse this historic addition which works to protect Egypt against any attempt to tamper with its fundamentals, and especially its ‘civic nature’. The Turkish Constitution which was established by Kemal Ataturk placed the same responsibility on the shoulders of the Turkish armed forces that brilliantly bore it for around a century, till Erdogan came to power and shattered it. I pray that the Egyptian armed forces would shoulder this crucial constitutional responsibility, and never relinquish it under any circumstances. And I hope that Egypt never gets an ‘Egyptian Erdogan’.
Article 204 determines the prerogatives of the military judiciary. I endorse this article since it specifies all the cases under which civilians shall stand trial in front of military courts, with no interference in or duplication of the competencies of civilian judiciary.
Articles 248 – 249 – 250 – 251 – 252 – 253 – 254 all concern the establishment of an upper house of parliament, as a second chamber besides the House of Representatives, and determining its competencies, the number of its members, and the provisions that govern its work. I endorse these articles because they answer my aspirations and conviction of the imperativeness of having a second house to parliament, in order to act as a ‘legislative safety valve’.
The main point of contention in the proposed constitutional amendments lay with the articles relating to the President of the Republic. The first was Article 140 which stipulates: “The President of the Republic shall be elected for six Gregorian calendar years… and he shall not assume the post of president for more than two consecutive presidential terms.” I approve this article out of conviction that extending the term of the president from four to six years is a must in order to provide an adequate span of time to implement the platform on which he was elected. However, I must here firmly draw the line against justifications that were commonly spread, to the effect that extending the term of the current president would enable him to carry on with the task of developing and modernising Egypt. These justifications are unacceptable since such plans in modern States do not rely on specific figures, but every public servant starting with the president himself is required to carry on with the implementation of the plans and programmes originally put in place before he came to office.
As for Article 241 bis, which is a new addition to the Constitution, it stipulates that, as a transitional provision, the current President whose term ends six years since he took office in 2018, that is in 2024, may run for a consecutive term. I endorse only the part concerning the six-year term, and hold a conditional reservation on the possibility of re-electing the current President for another term; I wonder, is it a “consecutive term”, or a “third term”? I will go into this particular point in detail in my upcoming editorial.
5 May 2019