With just two months to go the constituent assembly drafting a new constitution has yet to decide on whether Egypt should adopt a presidential or parliamentary system, or a mixture of the two, reports Gamal Essam El-Din
The fourth meeting of the constituent assembly tasked with drafting Egypt's new constitution on Tuesday appeared to favour a mixed parliamentary-presidential system.
Cairo University professor of constitutional law Atef El-Banna discounted either a presidential or parliamentary system for Egypt as ill-suited to current circumstances. A successful presidential system of the kind that operates in the US requires, he argued, a delicate balance of powers between the president and Congress. In the absence of this balance, as happened in many Latin American states, such a system slides easily into an autocratic, military regime. Similarly, he said, the kind of parliamentary system exemplified by the UK's House of Commons demands a long history of democratic practice and the existence of competing political parties capable of winning a majority and forming a government, conditions that do not exist in Egypt.
He concluded that, for the time being at least, the kind of mixed parliamentary-presidential system adopted by France was best suited to Egypt's needs.
While El-Banna's arguments swayed many members of the constituent assembly its chairman, Hossam El-Ghiriani, warned there was a danger under such a mixed system of "the president and parliament competing rather than cooperating, creating a war of attrition over political power and hegemony".
Some constituent assembly members, including former secretary-general of the Arab League Amr Moussa, favoured the continuation of a presidential system in the foreseeable future, with the proviso that a new constitution curtails some of the president's more sweeping powers.
Meanwhile, El-Ghiriani expressed his hopes that members of the assembly who had boycotted its meetings would return. Among the figures who have failed to turn up for meetings are the chairman of the Bar Association Sameh Ashour; member of the Supreme Constitutional Court Tahani El-Gibali; professor of constitutional law Gaber Nasser; failed presidential candidate Mohamed Selim El-Awwa; and businessman Naguib Sawiris.
"The reasons that led to the first assembly being dissolved -- the fact that it is dominated by a single political force, the Muslim Brotherhood, and therefore not representative of wider society, still apply," says Ashour, who also points out that the assembly's future remains uncertain in the face of several appeals before the administrative courts.
The first constituent assembly, selected by the Islamist-led parliament, was dissolved by court order on 10 April. It had been criticised for its preponderance -- almost 70 out of 100 members -- of Islamists.
Negotiations over forming a new assembly resulted in a deal between Islamist and non-Islamist parties over membership ratios. The latter, though, soon accused the Brotherhood of once again breaking its promises and attempting to load the constituent assembly with its supporters.
Cairo's Administrative Justice Court has said it will rule on the constitutionality of the current constituent assembly on 4 September. This leaves two months for the assembly to complete a draft constitution which must then be presented to the public in a referendum.
El-Ghiriani wrapped up Tuesday's meeting by denying recent reports that he is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
"Some newspapers have alleged that, along with other judges who are members of the assembly, I am a Muslim Brother. I want to state clearly that throughout my career as a judge I have never been a member of the Brotherhood, or any other political party," said El-Ghiriani.