The 50-member Constituent Assembly tasked with amending the 2012 constitution held its first closed session on Tuesday in the absence of media coverage.
The session was followed by a press conference for the assembly spokesman Mohamed Salmawy who announced that out of over 200 constitutional articles, the assembly’s drafting committee was done with 189.
“The new draft includes 18 new articles which were never included in Egypt’s previous constitutions,” Salmawy said. He added that six of the 18 articles were already finalised by the drafting committee.
Salmawy stated that the majority of the new articles are in the rights and freedoms section. “This is an indication that extra articles are mostly needed in the rights and freedoms field.”
The Constituent Assembly spokesman said he expected that upon the issuance of the new constitution, several active laws described as “notorious” would be deemed unconstitutional. Salmawy said that since the new constitution would be a constitutional and legal reference, the constitutionality of such controversial laws could be challenged at the Supreme Constitutional Court.
Salmawy said that Tuesday’s session was a procedural session where no articles were discussed or voted on. He added that a draft of the rights and freedoms section of the constitution was distributed among the attendants. They included all 50 members of the assembly as well as the 10-member legal experts’ committee which was originally tasked with amending the 2012 constitution then passing its amendments to the Constituent Assembly.
Tuesday’s session nevertheless closed its doors to the backup Constituent Assembly members. Fourteen backup members had protested the decision to ban them from attending the closed sessions by filing a signed petition to Amr Moussa, the assembly chairman, reported state-run Al-Ahram.
Protesting backup members argued that the decision breached the presidential decree issued on 1 September, which appointed the 50 members of the Constituent Assembly. Members also stated that the decision violated the assembly’s bylaws, Al-Ahram reported.
Protesting members met with Moussa on Monday; he reportedly told them that they would discuss the possibility of allowing backup members to attend future closed meetings. Moussa stated that backup members were prevented from attending Tuesday’s meeting since the Constituent Assembly is running out of time and it needs to decide on several matters urgently, reported Al-Ahram. He added that the hall which hosts the assembly’s meetings could fit no more than the 50 main members of the assembly.
On Tuesday, Salmawy said that backup members are welcome to attend any discussion sessions of the assembly. He added, however, that according to the aforementioned presidential decree, they are not allowed to take part in the voting process and therefore they should not attend the voting sessions. Salmawy cited constitutional expert and assembly member Gaber Nassar as saying that if anyone other than the 50 main assembly members attends the voting sessions, the sessions would be deemed invalid.
“We applauded the efforts of the backup members as well as those of the legal experts’ committee during today’s session,” Salmawy said.
The next closed session for the assembly is scheduled for Sunday. Until then, the assembly’s committees are scheduled to meet around the clock to finalise the drafting process.