Monday, June 18, 2012

Egyptian generals issue amendments to the constition that expand their powers considerably

Even as the voting in the second round of the election of Egypt;'s next president was still under way, the ruling military council SCAF issued a number of additional amendments tot the constitution whereby it expanded its powers considerably.  The SCAF replaces parliament, now that the Supreme Constitutional Court has annulled its existence. An amendment to Article 56 gives the SCAF the right to assume the responsibilities of Parliament until a new one is elected. The previous interim constitution allowed the SCAF to issue and overrule legislation.
SCAF also retains the last word on all matters concerning the armed forces, delivers the minister of Defense and is the only authority that can declare war (articles 53 and 53/1). Also it can maintain the order in the country and has itself the last word on it (art. 53/2).
Furthermore SCAF has the right to form a new Constituent Assembly with the task to write a constitution, and it is one of the bodies (together with the president, the prime minister, the supreme council of the judiciary, or a fifth of the assembly) that can ask for a revision of drafted articles, which in case of stalemate in the assembly will be referred tot the Supreme Constitutional Court.

The generals of  the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, SCAF (Photo Reuters) 

Al Ahram Online translated the following articles of the new constitutional declaration:

Article 53: The incumbent SCAF members are responsible for deciding on all issues related to the armed forces including appointing its leaders and extending the terms in office of the aforesaid leaders.  The current head of the SCAF is to act as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and minister of defense until a new constitution is drafted.

 Article 53/1: The president can only declare war after the approval of the SCAF.

Article 53/2: If the country faces internal unrest which requires the intervention of the armed forces, the president can issue a decision to commission the armed forces – with the approval of the SCAF - to maintain security and defend public properties. Current Egyptian law stipulates the powers of the armed forces and its authorities in cases where the military can use force, arrest or detain.

Article 60 B:  If the constituent assembly encounters an obstacle that would prevent it from completing its work, the SCAF within a week  will form a new constituent assembly- to author a new constitution within three months from the day of the new assembly's formation. The newly drafted constitution will be put forward after 15 days of the day it is completed, for approval by the people through a national referendum. The parliamentary elections will take place one month from the day the new constitution is approved by the national referendum.

-          Article 60 B1: If the president, the head of SCAF, the prime minister, the Supreme Council of the Judiciary or a fifth of the constituent assembly find that the new constitution contains an article or more which conflict with the revolution's goals and its main principles or which conflict with any principal agreed upon in all of Egypt's former constitutions, any of the aforementioned bodies may demand that the constituent assembly revises this specific article within 15 days. Should the constituent assembly object to revising the contentious article, the article will be referred to the High Constitutional Court (HCC) which will then be obliged to give its verdict within seven days. The HCC's decision is final and will be published in the official gazette within three days from the date of issuance.

And, oh yeah, Mohammed Morsi won the presidency. Unofficial results gave him something like 52%. The dissolution of parliament and the elemenst just added to the constitution make confine his powers to not much more than a figurehead.

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