Party asks all political persuasions to contribute to a new constitution for Egypt
CAIRO: The Democratic Front party, which is still under construction, held its first public meeting under the slogan of: A new constitution; no to amending the constitution.
The party is being established by a former member of the policies committee in the National Democratic Party (NDP), Osama Ghazaly Harb, who resigned earlier in protest over the slow pace of reform in the NDP.
The conference was attended by a number of constitutional law and political science professors, journalists, a representative from the Muslim Brotherhood and party members.
The main speaker, former constitutional law professor at Cairo University, Dr. Yehya El-Gamal started off asking the questions, Is the 1971 constitution suitable for Egypt? Or would it be better to have an amended 1971 constitution? Or does Egypt need a new constitution?
The constitution that governs Egypt today was written during the time of former President Anwar El-Sadat in 1971.
The constitution, El-Gamal says, is a concern for all of Egypt, which is not limited to one person or one party. He continued, criticizing the ruling NDP s approach to the issue of constitutional amendments, saying that the National Democratic Party talks about amending the constitution, but their annual conference elapsed without mention of the constitution.
We demand that a public, national association writes a new constitution, El-Gamal says. We ask all national forces in Egypt and every Egyptian citizen to join us in this burden, writing a new constitution for Egypt.
Continuing, El-Gamal says that the constitution needs to be changed, generally, stressing that the 1971 constitution was written 35 years ago, under circumstances that, he says, have changed completely. It was written during a time when people were discussing socialism and nationalization, which he says are a part of history now.
Throughout the past 35 years, El-Gamal says all of the constitutional changes that have been made have been for the worse, including the changes in Article 76 in the constitution that states how the president gets elected. Before it was amended last year, it stated that the president of Egypt should be chosen in a referendum on one candidate, who would be chosen by parliament.
It was amended last year and now states that the president should be elected in a multi-candidate election. But the amendment of the article is controversial. The amended article has laid down a number of conditions that party and independent candidates have to meet in order to be eligible for nomination. Opposition parties and movements have protested against this amendment, saying it is now a masked referendum.
Agreeing with them, El-Gamal calls the amended article a constitutional sin. He says that realistically, the conditions laid down in the amendment could never be met.
El-Gamal has put forth a number of issues which he says must be included in the new constitution, in order for Egypt to be a truly democratic country. He has called for freedom to form political parties, real presidential elections that would allow any Egyptian citizen to be nominated and constitutional assurance that a president cannot remain in power more that two terms.
The Democratic Front party is now collecting the 1,000 signatures required for a party to acquire legal approval from the Parties Affairs Committee.