Tuesday,12 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1181, (23 - 29 January 2014)
Tuesday,12 December, 2017
Issue 1181, (23 - 29 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

The steps ahead

Following the referendum on the constitution attention is focussed on a possible cabinet reshuffle, legislative amendments and presidential polls, writes Gamal Essam El-Din

An Egyptian Woman
An Egyptian Woman
Al-Ahram Weekly

Last week’s public approval of the newly-drafted constitution, with 98.1 per cent of a respectable turnout voting yes, paves the way for parliamentary and presidential elections within six months.
Some commentators also believe it heralds a reshuffle for the government of Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawi, in office since 17 July 2012.
Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Al-Chobaki, a member of the committee which drafted the new constitution, does not think Al-Beblawi’s government needs wholesale change. “It may well be only a handful of portfolios change hands. Certainly changes will have to be made if deputy premier and Minister of Defence Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi steps down to run in presidential elections,” said Al-Chobaki.
Al-Beblawi’s government, argues Al-Chobaki, has worked hard to restore economic and political stability in the seven months since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, “though the fact remains that some cabinet ministers, especially those in charge of service portfolios, have not been as efficient as one might hope and should be replaced”.
Speculation has so far focussed on the fate of the ministers of irrigation, electricity, agriculture, health and internal trade. This week also saw widespread rumours that deputy premier for economic affairs and Minister of International Cooperation Ziad Bahaaeddin, and Minister of Sports Taher Abu Zeid, had submitted requests to tender their resignations.
Al-Beblawi has stressed that the cabinet has no plans to resign. “The new constitution does not require the existing government to resign. It is up to the president of the republic to review the performance of the government and decide whether changes should be made,” said the prime minister.
A report issued by the Oxford Business Group on 15 January praised Al-Beblawi’s government for stabilising the economy and using fund packages provided by Egypt’s Gulf allies to bolster confidence and brighten the economic outlook and argued that Al-Beblawi’s government should remain until a new parliament is formed.  
Economist Hani Sarieddin, a member of the Free Egyptians Party, disagrees. “The government needs a complete reshuffle,” he says. “The priority should be to install a neutral government ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls.”
Ahmed Shaaban, a leading member of the Kifaya movement, stresses that “presidential and parliamentary polls must not be overseen by a politicised government”. Al-Beblawi, he points out, is a member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party which intends to contest the parliamentary elections.
A number of political analysts are now arguing that a neutral government led by a figure of national standing be appointed to take the helm in the run up to the presidential and parliamentary polls.
If the extent of any cabinet reshuffle is still in doubt the need to amend a whole package of laws is not. Topping the list, says political analyst Gamal Zahran, are changes to four key political laws that regulate presidential and parliamentary elections and the performance of political parties.
“These amendments could be issued by presidential decree if parliament is still not sitting,” says Zahran. “If interim President Adli Mansour decides that presidential polls should be held ahead of parliamentary elections then laws regulating the votes must be amended in line with the newly-drafted constitution.”
Ali Awad, constitutional advisor to President Mansour, has announced the presidential election law (174/2005) will soon be amended. “The law must be modified to reflect new constitutional articles regulating the presidential ballot and the make-up of the commission in charge of staging it,” explained Awad.
Amr Moussa, chairman of the 50-member committee which drafted the new constitution, told a delegation of American senators on Monday that Mansour is expected to announce his decision on whether presidential polls should be held ahead of parliamentary elections within days.
Calls for army chief and Minister of Defence Al-Sisi to nominate himself as a presidential candidate continue to grow. One campaign urging Al-Sisi to stand claims to have collected 25 million signatures, and a new group, calling itself Egypt My Homeland and including leading figures of Hosni Mubarak’s now dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP), has been formed with the avowed aim of garnering support for Al-Sisi.
Yet another group, Yes for First Lieutenant General, has announced it will send 2,000 activists to Tahrir Square on the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution to declare their support for Al-Sisi.
Zahran believes that if presidential elections are held in advance of the presidential poll then the vote could be held as early as March.
Article 141 of the new constitution stipulates that presidential candidates must be born to Egyptian parents, be 40 or above and have performed military service. Neither the candidate nor the candidate’s parents or spouse can have dual nationality.
Article 142 requires presidential hopefuls to secure the endorsement of 20 elected parliamentary deputies or a minimum of 25,000 citizens spread over at least 15 governorates with a minimum 1,000 from each.
A five-member Presidential Election Commission (PEC) will supervise the presidential polls. Headed by acting chairman of the High Constitutional Court (HCC) Anwar Al-Assi it includes HCC Deputy Chairman Abdel-Wahab Abdel-Razek, Deputy Chairman of the Court of Cassation Ezzat Omran, the Chairman of Cairo Appeals Court Nabil Salib and the First Deputy Chairman of the State Council (Administrative courts) Essam Abdel-Aziz.
For parliamentary elections to be held, says Zahran, three laws must be amended: the law on exercise of political rights (73/1956); the law regulating the performance of the People’s Assembly (38/1972) and the electoral districts law (206/1990).
The 50-member committee which drafted the new constitution left it up to interim President Mansour to reach a consensus via national dialogue over the electoral system under which the parliamentary poll is held. It remains unclear whether an individual candidacy system, or a mixed party list/independent candidate system, will be adopted.  
Law 40/1977, which regulates the performance of political parties, is also in need of review after the new constitution stipulated that political parties cannot be formed on religious foundations or with a religious background.
Minister of Social Solidarity Ahmed Al-Boraai has indicated that NGOs can expect changes in legislation regulating their activities. “The law must be amended to reflect stipulations introduced by the new constitution,” he said.
The recently endorsed constitution expressly prohibits NGOs from indulging in secret activities, forming armed militias or being dissolved in the absence of a judicial order.

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