Monday, December 2, 2013

Egyptian constitution leaves open which comes first: presidential or parliamentary elections

<p>Members of Egypt's constitution committee meet at the Shura Council for the final vote on a draft Egyptian constitution in Cairo.</p>Meeting of Commission of 50 in the building of the Shura Council. 

A draft Egyptian constitution completed on Sunday opens the way for a presidential election to be held before parliamentary polls, potentially changing the transition plan outlined by the army when it ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
The original plan said a parliamentary election should take place before the presidential one. But the draft constitution avoids stipulating which vote should happen first. The draft constitution says the "election procedures" must start within six months from the date of the constitution's ratification, meaning Egypt may not have an elected president or parliament until the second half of next year.
The change was announced by former Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa, chairman of the 50-member constituent assembly, as it completed its final draft on Sunday. The draft must now be put to a referendum this month or next.
The change leaves it up to interim President Adly Mansour, to decide which election comes first, or whether to hold both at the same time. Mansour was installed as head of state after Mursi's ouster. Critics say he is just a front for army rule.
The change follows several weeks of debate in the constituent assembly fuelled by concern that weak secular parties are not ready for parliamentary elections.
Seeing army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as the frontrunner for president, some assembly members want the presidential election held before or with the legislative polls so that a strong presidential candidate can forge an electoral alliance for the parliamentary race.
In an earlier voting session on Sunday, the committee did not pass articles 243 and 244, which stipulate that the state decides on the quota of workers and farmers, as well as Christians and people with special needs, in parliament. The amended text, which received 44 and 46 votes respectively, stipulated that the aforementioned be granted “proper representation.”
Article 229, which stipulates that parliamentary elections be held on a mixed system — two-thirds allocated for individual candidates and one third for electoral lists — also did not pass. However, the amended article which states that parliamentary elections are to be held according to Article 102, passed with 43 votes.
Article 230, which states that parliamentary elections must be held after a minimum period of 30 days and a maximum of 90 days after the constitution is ratified, was also not passed, but later received 44 votes when it didn’t specify whether parliamentary or presidential elections should be held first.
In teh final version of the constitution the second article states that Islam is the religion of the state and that Islamic Sharia is the main source of legislation. The third article states that legislation regarding the personal affairs of Christians and Jews should be based on their own religious law.
A proposal to refer to “non-Muslims” in the article, rather than specifying Christians and Jews, was considered by the Assembly but was eventually rejected.  
Other articles voted for include one that stipulates an ascending system of taxation, and another that ensures that women have equal opportunities in the judiciary, where they have long been excluded.

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