CAIRO: The Shura Council (SC), the upper house of parliament, unanimously approved on Thursday the 34 constitutional amendments suggested by President Mubarak late last year.
Safwat Al-Sherif, head of the SC, said after the voting: “I hereby announce the agreement of the Shura Council on the amendments which on President Mubarak asked parliament debate.
He added: “According to Article 69 of the assembly’s internal mandate I will send the voting results to the president combined with the draft of the sessions, and will also notify the speaker of the People Assembly (PA) of the opinion of the SC to help them form the amendments.
The third session devoted to discussing the constitutional amendments at the SC was attended by 230 members.
The voting process is done by calling each member’s name. But while all members voiced aye, some opposition members said “I agree on the principle of the constitutional amendments , indicating they had reservations about some of the articles.
Al-Sherif describes the results as historical, reflecting the commitment the president has to press ahead on the road to constitutional reform.
He considers the unanimous approval of the SC as the beginning of a new social contract to instill the values of citizenship and equality between Egyptians despite differences in religion, race or ethnicity. It also reflects the people’s refusal to form political parties based on religious ideology.
The session was attended by five ministers who are also members of the assembly, including Minister of Interior Habib Al Adly in a rare appearance in parliament.
During a Tuesday session the appointed members of the Shura Council, representing the opposition, were given the floor first.
Refaat El Saied, head of the leftist El Taggmou Party, expressed his approval of the amendment to Article 5, banning any political activity based on religion.
Representatives of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) focused in their speeches on the strong relationship binding Muslims and Copts as a legitimate reason to amend Article 5 and reinforce the concept of citizenship.
The suggested amendments also limit the participation of independents, as opposed to candidates belonging to registered political parties, in elections.
The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood gained a stronghold in parliament by fielding independent candidates.
Brotherhood responds to President Mubarak, Page 2
If the government wants to create a new system for elections that would boost political party participation, El Saied added, then it has to pay attention to obstacles facing Copts, women and the poorer segments of society.
Articles 76 and 77 were also discussed. El Saied requested that the two articles, which regulate presidential elections and the number of terms the president can hold in office, to be reconsidered. He suggested Article 77 should limit presidential terms to a maximum of two.
Mohamed Sarhan, representing Al Wafd, was concerned with the judicial supervision of the elections.
According to the suggested amendment to Article 88, elections would be held on one day and judicial supervision would be restricted to general committees.
Sarhan warned against canceling the judicial supervision of elections over all polling stations.
The terrorism law, slated to replace the controversial emergency law, also came up in the discussion. El Saeid warned of the possibility that the new law would hamper personal freedoms and civil rights, and suggested it should be formulated under judicial monitoring.
Other members affiliated with the NDP-run government referred to the amendments as an unprecedented constitutional revolution.