So the President said …
The Egyptian media has lately been brimming with material commenting on President Mubarak’s call for Constitutional change. The change will allow for the free election of a president from among multiple candidates, instead of the current system in which Parliament nominates a candidate for the presidency then holds a public referendum on the nominee. Many have written or spoken in gratitude and celebration of the President’s call—a stance which reflects an unhealthy climate incapable of seriously dealing with reform. A few however, have presented earnest studies on or analyses of the issue, introducing substantial visions of what should follow the aspired Constitutional reform. It is hoped that the political kitchen can come up with a recipe for a new system of nominating and electing the president and vice-president, and redefine their authorities, duration of their terms, and conditions for re-election.
One of the most serious studies on
the issue was conducted by Mr Nabil Abdel-Fattah, researcher at the Al-Ahram
Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. It was printed in the
• Any attempt towards political reform can never ignore constitutional reform, which would in turn question the powers of the president of the republic under the current Constitution.
• The 1971 Constitution—the present one—did not stipulate a full parliamentary system that would allow correct political and democratic practice. Instead, it consolidated a presidential system, granting the president extensive powers, so that the boundary between the legislative and executive authorities of the State was no longer obvious. Especially where the relationship between the president, the prime minister, and the speaker of the parliament is concerned, this boundary is blurred. All three appear to form the sides of one power triangle, instead of representing two distinctly separate entities, where the president and prime minister impersonate the executive authority of the State, while the speaker of the parliament personifies the legislative authority.
• The articles which stipulate the duration of the term of the presidency are among the most controversial in the 1971 Constitution. Article 77 had stipulated that the president may be re-elected for one consecutive term, but was changed in 1980 to allow the re-election of the president for several [unlimited] successive terms. The result was that the post of president went out of circulation, as though permanently booked for the present occupant, to the exclusion of any other eligible candidate.
• Whether or not by intent, the 1971 Constitution
emerged as male-oriented. As such, it ignores its own principles of uncontested
equality between citizens, since it absolutely disregards the possibility of a
woman being nominated for the presidency. Those who love to refer to Islamic ++sharia++ or
legislative code, quote it as stipulating that no woman may occupy the post of
or top post in the nation. I remind those that many schools of modern ++fiqh++ or
religious science consider that the ‘grand ++imama++’ is not synonymous with
that of the presidency of the modern, national State. Proof of this is obvious
in the case of some of the bigger and more populous Islamic countries such as
• The extensive authority which the 1971 Constitution grants the president allows him to dominate the political and constitutional arena. From among a total of 59 defined prerogatives or powers, the Constitution grants the president alone 35 of them, leaving a mere 14 to the legislative authority, four to the judicial authority, four to the ministers, one to the prosecutor general, and one to the Supreme Press Council.
• This focal, central role of the president
contributed to the marginalisation of politicians and the later complete
absence of any ground to produce them, so that the likes of the politicians who
had helped build modern
• This legacy of the 1952 July Revolution bred a broad class of statesmen and politicians whose mindset was captive to the incorrect concept of absolute obedience, submission, and loyalty to the president, as a requirement of good citizenship. This legacy is a serious impediment to political and constitutional reform, and to the foundation of a modern parliamentarian State where pluralism, political freedom, and peaceful power rotation reign. We must admit that our country suffers from a political vacuum and scarcity of politicians, and that reform should proceed gradually and in stages in order to allow for the productions of new political cadres which would possess new concepts and visions, and believe in the reform we aspire for.