Thursday, November 28, 2013

Egypt's New Amended Constitution Ready for Final Vote in Military-Appointed Committee

Egypt's new constitution ready for a final vote Saturday: Amr Moussa

Gamal Essam El-Din, Monday 25 Nov 2013
Ahram Online

Egypt's new constitution will be put to a final vote next week, according to the head of the 50-member drafting committee

Chairman of the 50-member committee responsible for drafting a new constitution for Egypt, Amr Moussa, said the national charter will be ready to put to a final vote next week.

On the sidelines of a meeting with representatives of farmers and workers on Monday, Moussa said "the 50-member committee will finish its work by the end of the week (Thursday or Friday) and a draft will be ready for a final vote early next week – probably on Saturday 30 November."

"The 50-committee feels proud that it has drafted a constitution in line with the aspirations of Egypt and its people," Moussa added.

"This constitution widens the scope of freedoms in a very impressive way, reinforces the principles of gender equality, and grants women greater rights."

Moussa, however, sharply criticised "maintaining a quota of 50 percent seats for representatives of workers and farmers, which has been in place since 1964."

"This quota was badly manipulated for political reasons, and it is better for workers and farmers to seek another method of securing their interests, such as setting up political parties to defend their rights in parliament," Moussa said.

Representatives of workers and farmers asked that the quota be maintained for a five-year legislative term, during which they can establish their own representation.

"If not, the new constitution should eliminate all quotas," said Mohamed Barghash, a representative of farmers' cooperatives.

The 50-member committee is currently holding a closed-door meeting aimed at reaching consensus over around 17 articles.

Gaber Nassar, the committee's secretary-general, told journalists that "in its meeting on Sunday evening, the committee reached consensus over eight articles and hopes to finish the remaining nine on Monday."

The most serious issue on the committee's agenda is reaching agreement on the new constitution's preamble.

Islamists and secularists (including representatives of Egyptian churches) locked horns over the opening paragraphs of the preamble. Islamists, including the representatives of the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party and the Sunni institute of Al-Azhar, insist that the word "civilian" be omitted and a definition of Islamic sharia be introduced, stating that its sources of interpretation include its widely accepted schools.

By contrast, representatives of churches and around 25 secular political activists insist that the word "civilian" be kept, and that if a definition of Islamic Sharia is included, it must state that this should be restricted by the interpretations introduced by the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) in 1996.

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