Problems on hold
This is the third and final episode of my reading of the new Draft Constitution. I present it as we bid farewell to an eventful 2013 and greet 2014. The first half of 2013 was grim and left Egyptians fearing for the destiny of their nation in view of the anarchy that gripped the country and the vicious wave of Ikhwanisation—Ikhwan is Arabic for [Muslim] Brothers (MB)—which undermined the dignity and prestige of the State.
The suffocating sense of oppression, rejection, and wrath that welled up in Egyptians gave rise to the grassroots Tamarud (Rebel) movement which led the 33 million-strong public revolt against the Islamist president Muhammad Mursi on 30 June. The military declared it was backing the people’s will and, on 3 July, Mursi was overthrown. Egyptians in their wide majority saw this as a piece of Divine intervention, since it fulfilled what the people had deemed a practical impossibility: that the armed forces should back them to overthrow the Islamist MB regime. It was feared that the military would be too sensitive of being accused of interfering in the country’s politics to take any action. But it was precisely that almost miraculous national effort on the part of the people and the military that rescued Egypt and put her back on track. The 30 June Revolution was tantamount to a correction of the 25 January Revolution. Now Egypt is charging ahead with the Roadmap to a democratic future amid high hopes and despite [Islamist] terrorist attempts to hinder endeavours at reform. The writing of the new Constitution is the first of these endeavours.
Throughout the years since the 25 January Revolution in 2011, Watani has been keen on presenting the divergent views of all rival political streams. Even during the rise of the Islamists to power and the catastrophic blows Mursi aimed at the State institutions, Watani never had reservations about printing the different viewpoints. We chose to leave to the reader the freedom to make up his or her own mind as to who to back or vote for. Watani even initiated a special section under the title Muwagaha (Face off), to present the views, counter views and the conflicting opinions on the various political issues.
In case of the Draft Constitution, however, and after a thorough reading and scrutiny of its core principles we at Watani decided to back it and rally our readers to vote for it. We felt that Egypt could no longer afford to waver between conflicting opinions at this destiny-determining point.
Hence the title of this series “Why say “yes” to the Constitution”, and the reason Muwagaha has been absent from our pages for the past few weeks.
Today I go back to my reading, the last of the series, of the Draft Constitution.
• The Ruling System
Article 164: The person appointed as Prime Minister must be Egyptian, born to Egyptian parents. Neither he nor his spouse may hold the citizenship of any other country.
The age of the PM must be at least 35 years old on the Gregorian calendar [as opposed to the Hijri calendar which is a lunar calendar] at the time of appointment. Anyone appointed as member of the government must be Egyptian, at least 30 years old on the Gregorian calendar at the time of the appointment. It is prohibited to hold a position in the government in addition to membership in the House of Representatives. If a member of the House is appointed to the government, his or her place in the House becomes vacant as of the date of appointment.
Article 179: The law regulates the conditions and the manner in which governors and heads of other local administrative units are appointed, and defines their mandate.
Article 180: Every local unit elects a local council by direct, secret ballot for a term of four years. A candidate must be no younger than 21 years old on the Gregorian calendar. The law regulates other conditions for candidacy and procedures of election, provided that one quarter of the seats are allocated to youth under 35 years old, one quarter for women, and workers and farmers are represented by no less than 50 percent of the total number of seats. These percentages include a proper representation of Christians and people with disability.
• The Judiciary
Article 187: Court sessions are public, unless, for reasons of public order or morals, the court declares them confidential. In all cases, the verdict is pronounced in an open session.
Article 189: The public prosecution is an integral part of the judiciary. It is responsible for investigating, pressing charges and prosecuting all criminal cases.
Public prosecution is carried out by a Prosecutor General who is selected by the Supreme Judicial Council from among the Deputies to the President of the Court of Cassation, the Presidents of the Court of Appeals or the Assistant Prosecutor Generals, by virtue of a presidential decree for a four-year term, or for the period remaining until retirement age, whichever comes first, and only once during a judge’s career.
Article 194: The President and vice-presidents of the Supreme Constitutional Court, and the head and members of its Commissioners Authority are independent, cannot be dismissed, and are subject to no authority other than the law.
Article 195: The rulings and decisions issued by the Supreme Constitutional Court are published in the official paper. They are binding to everyone and to all State authorities. They enjoy absolute validity in their regard.
The law regulates the repercussions of a ruling of the unconstitutionality of a legislative text.
• The Armed Forces
Article 200: The armed forces belong to the people. Their duty is to protect the country, and preserve its security and the safety of its territories. The State is exclusively mandated to establish armed forces. No individual, entity, organisation or group is allowed to create military or quasi-military structures, groups or organisations.
• Chapter VI – General and Transitional Provisions
Article 223: The national flag of the Arab Republic of Egypt consists of three colours, black, white, and red with the eagle of Saladin in golden yellow. The emblem, decorations, insignia, seal and the national anthem are defined by law. Desecration of the Egyptian flag is a crime punishable by law.
Article 226: The President of the Republic or one-fifth of the members of the House of Representatives may request the amendment of one or more of the Constitution articles. The request must specify the articles to be amended and the reasons for the amendments.
In all cases, texts pertaining to the re-election of the President of the Republic, or principles of freedom and equality may not be amended, unless the amendment brings more guarantees.
Article 234: The Minister of Defence is appointed upon the approval of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The provisions of this article remain in force for two full presidential terms starting from the date on which this Constitution comes into effect.
Article 235: In its first legislative term after this Constitution comes into effect, the House of Representatives issues a law to regulate the building and renovating churches, guaranteeing Christians the freedom to practice their religious rites.
Article 236: The State works on planning and implementing development projects that would return the people of Nubia to their native regions within ten years from the date that this Constitution comes into effect, as regulated by law.
Article 238: The State commits to extending compulsory education until the completion of the secondary stage in a gradual manner to be completed in school year 2016/2017.
Article 243: The State grants workers and farmers appropriate representation in the first House of Representatives to be elected after this Constitution is passed, as specified by law.
Article 245: The State grants youth, Christians, persons with disability and expatriate Egyptians appropriate representation in the first House of Representatives to be elected after this Constitution is passed, as specified by law.
Article 246: The Constitutional Declaration issued on 5 July 2013, the Constitutional Declaration issued on 8 July 2013, and any constitutional texts or provisions mentioned in the Constitution issued in 2012 but not tackled by this constitutional charter are hereby repealed as of the date that it comes into effect. Their consequent effects remain in force.
Article 247: This constitutional charter comes into effect on the date that it is announced that the people have approved it in a referendum through a majority of valid votes.
Thus I end my reading of Egypt’s new Constitution. The challenge now is for Egyptians to go out in their masses on 14 and 15 January 2014 to determinedly approve the Constitution, in order for Egypt to safely move to the next step of the Roadmap, the road to save the nation.
29 December 2013