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Backgrounder: Some key clauses in Egypt's new draft constitution

English.news.cn   2014-01-13 07:02:39            

CAIRO, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- Egypt will hold its third constitutional referendum on Tuesday and Wednesday during three years since long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak was overthrown by massive protests in February 2011.

The first constitutional referendum, held on March 19, 2011, a month after the ouster of former president Mubarak was endorsed by 77.2 percent of voters. Based on the constitutional declaration, the length of the presidential term was reduced to four years, and the president could only run for two terms.

A new controversial constitution drafted mostly by the Islamists was approved with an extremely low turnout in the second referendum on Dec. 15-22, 2012. Some 63.8 percent voted in favor.

The constitution was suspended on July 3, 2013 when the army ousted the president Mohamed Morsi in response to mass protests against his one-year rule and his Muslim Brotherhood group.

This week's referendum has been deemed as a key step in a democratic transition, and is to be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections in mid-2014, according to the timetable of the military-installed government.

Interim President Adli Mansour then named a 50-member constitution amendment panel, mainly composed of liberals and leftists. He said the new charter answered the public demands and was very clear on democracy and freedoms, and it would stage for the coming parliamentary and presidential elections in this summer. But a pro-Morsi alliance mainly formed of his Islamist group said it will boycott the forthcoming referendum as it was illegal.

Following are some key articles of the draft constitution compared to the Islamist one:

PRESIDENTIAL POWERS

Likewise the 2012 constitution, the president can only serve two four-year terms and presidential candidates must be at least 40 years old.

However, the new draft ruled out the president's rights to appoint a defense minister directly but have to in coordination with the national defense council.

The draft also gives the president's right to name a prime minister, but the parliament has the chance to support or veto the nomination. If it is rejected, the president must accept the appointment from the party or alliance that has the most seats in the parliament.

The parliament has the power for the first time to remove a president if they have a two-thirds majority of approval.

Based on the new draft, the country will has the semi- presidential ruling system that grants wide jurisdictions for the prime minister and the executive authority.

THE MILITARY

Like the 2012 constitution, the president has the power to sack the defense minister, but the new draft says the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has the right to choose its leader from a list of candidates over the next two presidential terms.

The military budget should be discussed by the national defense council made up of top state officials including the president, the prime minister and the defense minister. However, the constitution does not clarify who has the power to approve the budget and the financial situation will remain unclear for the public.

The new charter stipulates like the Islamist one that the civilians can still be tried by military courts, but only on the premise that the crimes are related to the armed forces, such as direct attacks on soldiers and military facilities.

That article raged anger of liberals, activists and revolutionary movements as they said it was a violation of democracy and freedom.

CIVILIAN GOVERNMENT

In the preamble, the draft states: "we now, are writing a constitution that continues to build a democratic, modern country with a civilian government." The word "civilian" in Arabic indicates non-religion and non-military, which ignited anger among ultraconservative Islamists who believed that it was the same word as "secularist."

RELIGIONS

The new draft says the principles of Islamic Shariah, or rules, are the main source of legislation. Considering personal status affairs, Christians and Jews can follow their religious codes. However, it reverses previous language added in the Morsi-era which opened the door to wider interpretation of laws in line with religious jurisprudence.

The draft says freedom of belief is "absolute" instead of " preserved" in the Morsi's one.

According to a new article, a party can not be founded and operated on religious basis, which is seen as a blow to the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, and the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party.

The 50-member panel also deleted an article that gave the Islamic clerics unprecedented powers, adding that Al-Azhar, the country's main Islamist institution, is the main reference in religious science and Islamist affairs. POLITICAL TRANSITION

The draft constitution gives the authorities the right to decide whether a presidential election will be held before parliamentary polls, opening the door for changes of the transitional roadmap. The original document put the parliamentary elections at first.

It also stipulates that election procedures should start within six months after the draft was passed.

FREEDOMS AND RIGHTS

According to the new draft, political parties cannot be formed based on gender, race, sect or geography, and cannot practice activities against principles of democracy. Citizens have the right to organize public meetings and all forms of peaceful protests, but should inform the authorities and follow a law that the constitution does not define.

The draft ensures equality between women and men in all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and bans all forms of slavery, sex trade, oppression, and other forms of human trafficking and "abuse of human beings."

The draft says the state is bound to all the international agreements, including human rights covenants, already signed by Egypt.

It also requires that the ratio of the governmental funding to education should be higher than 4 percent compared to the Gross National Product.

Editor: Yamei Wang
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