Two of Egypt’s most prominent legal experts rejected in an interview with Al Arabiya the proposed amendments to Egypt’s constitution and called for annulling the 1971 constitution on the grounds that if fell with the fall of the regime and writing a new constitution from scratch.
Constitutional expert Dr. Tharwat Badawi and professor of law Dr. Shawki al-Sayed told Al Arabiya’s show Egypt after Mubarak Wednesday that the proposed amendments do not effect the required changes and are marred by several legal and constitutional defects.
Badawi and Sayed discussed the most important amended articles, which will be put to a nation-wide referendum Saturday, especially article 148 that tackles the state of emergency.
“There is a difference between emergency law and the state of emergency,” Badawi told Al Arabiya. “The emergency law is permanent while the state of emergency is only declared in cases of crises like wars and natural disasters.”
Badawi explained that according to the amendments, the president has the right to declare the state of emergency for a period that does not exceed six months.
“This is a very long time and should have been much shorter. Plus, the article did not specify where exactly the state of emergency should be declared, which is supposed to be the place where the crisis occurs and not the whole nation.”
He added that if the amendments are approved in the referendum, the result will be a “patching” of an already fallen constitution and warned of the negative impact on the political scene in Egypt.
“If the amendments go through, the next parliamentary elections will be without real political parties. The constitution has to be written first and from the constitution comes the new president and parliament and not the other way round.”
For Sayed, the emergency law article is much better when amended than the way it was before the fall of the regime, yet he still objected to it and to the fact that the committee in charge of amending the constitution had not consulted legal experts first whether on this article or the others.
“The Egyptian constitution is by nature very rigid and requires a series of procedures in order to be amended.”
Both Badawi and Sayed strongly criticized the new wording of article 189 in which two paragraphs were added in relation to amending or rewriting the constitution.
According to the article, the president can ask for constitutional amendments after going back to the cabinet or obtaining the approval of 50% of elected members of the People’s Assembly, Egypt’s lower house of parliament.
The two guests agreed that this article does not oblige the president to amend the constitution within six months and that it is not clear how members of the committee that will write the new constitution will be chosen.
Both Badawi and Sayed praised the annulment of article 179 that give the president the right to take exceptional procedures in a number of cases.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)