Wednesday,20 September, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1358, (24 August - 6 September 2017)
Wednesday,20 September, 2017
Issue 1358, (24 August - 6 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Fixed term interest

As preparations for Egypt’s next presidential election proceed opposition to constitutional amendments is gaining momentum, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

 

Preparations for Egypt’s 2018 presidential election gained momentum when the Higher Council for Judges (HCJ) announced members of the National Election Commission’s (NEC) 10-member board had already been selected.

In a statement on 15 August the HCJ announced Lasheen Ibrahim will head the NEC and Mahmoud Al-Sherif act as his deputy. Ibrahim and Al-Sherif are the most senior judges at the Court of Cassation.

The board will also include Mahmoud Abdel-Hamid and Abu Bakr Marawan from the Court of Appeals; Mohamed Abu Deif Pasha and Abdel-Salam Mahmoud from the Administrative Prosecution Authority; Faris Saad and Ahmed Abdel-Hamid Abboud from the State Council and Hani Mohamed Ali and Nadia Al-Shahawi from the State Cases Authority.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marawan said this week that the site of the NEC’s headquarters and its budget will be announced within days. Informed sources say the NEC’s first task will be to revise voter lists.

Meanwhile, possible candidates in next year’s presidential election say the work of the NEC needs to be complemented by guarantees the poll will be fair and transparent.

Reform and Development Party (RDP) head Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat said in a message to the head of NEC on 15 August that the commission must apply “rules that will safeguard next year’s presidential candidates from media defamation and ensure that state authorities remain neutral throughout the poll”.

“In the forthcoming presidential poll no candidate must be above criticism, as long as the criticism is lawful and not based on character assassination,” said Al-Sadat.

In another message to Makram Mohamed Ahmed, the chair of the Higher Council for Media Regulation (HCMR), Al-Sadat said the HCMR “needs to ensure media outlets are treated equally and do not promote particular candidates”.

Al-Sadat, a former independent MP, was expelled from parliament in February after an ethics committee found him guilty of forging the signatures of MPs on a draft NGO law. He was also accused of tarnishing the image of parliament in international circles and attending a human rights conference in Switzerland without parliamentary approval.

Al-Sadat also voiced concern about recent calls by MPs to amend the constitution to extend the length of the presidential term ahead of the poll. “These calls are malicious and seek only to delay the vote,” said Al-Sadat.

Some MPs are demanding the 2014 constitution be changed to extend the presidential term from four to six years.

Ismail Nasreddin, an MP affiliated with the pro-regime majority bloc Support Egypt, was the first to call for such achange. Two other MPs — head of the Human Rights Committee Alaa Abed, and head of the Media and Culture Committee Osama Heikal — echoed the demand. Parliamentary Speaker Alaa Abdel-Aal has also said the “2014 constitution in its current form does not help serve the country’s needs”.

Ashraf Rashad, head of the pro-Sisi Future of a Nation Party, issued a statement this week saying that the party supports the re-election of Al-Sisi but is against amending the constitution. “Changes to the constitution should wait until after the poll,” said Rashad.

Omar Simida, head of the Conference Party, argues “what is most important now is to encourage citizens to go out and vote next year”. The Conference Party was founded by Amr Moussa, head of the Constituent Assembly which drafted the 2014 constitution.

“This is not the right time to amend the constitution. It is something that should be put to a national dialogue after next year’s presidential poll is out of the way,” said Simida.

In March Wafd Party head Al-Sayed Al-Badawi warned that “amending the constitution to extend the president’s term would be a very bad move and do a lot of damage to the president and to parliament’s reputation.”

Al-Ahali, the weekly mouthpiece of the Tagammu Party, said on Wednesday “the aim of these calls is to delay the presidential elections to 2020 and thus allow the incumbent — Al-Sisi — to stay in power for two more years”.

The Tagammu supports the re-election of Al-Sisi but opposes any change to the constitution ahead of the polls, says Al-Ahali’s Chairman Nabil Zaki.

Outside parliament a petition has been launched against any constitutional change. According to the petition campaign’s organisers, signatures are being collected from public figures and ordinary citizens concerned about attempts to change the constitution in advance of the presidential election.

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