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Constitutional referendum in December: Salmawy

Assembly not yet in agreement over contentious articles

A general view of Egypt's 50-member panel that has been tasked with drawing up a new constitution during their first meeting in Cairo. (AFP File Photo)
A general view of Egypt’s 50-member panel that has been tasked with drawing up a new constitution during their first meeting in Cairo.
(AFP File Photo)

The referendum over the constitution will be held in late December, according Mohamed Salmawy, spokesman of the 50-memebr Constituent Assembly tasked with amending the 2012 constitution.

In a press conference held in the Shura Council building on Tuesday, Salmawy stressed the assembly will be done with the constitution on 3 December. He added that the referendum will be held in December as per the constitutional declaration issued by interim President Adly Mansour in July. The declaration stated that the president would call on a referendum on the constitution within 30 days after it is submitted by the constituent assembly.

Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi had announced on Monday that the constitutional referendum will take place in late January 2014, during an investment conference in Cairo.

Constituent Assembly Chairman Amr Moussa announced on Tuesday that the assembly is done with the constitution’s final draft except for “some amendments in the preamble as well as a few transitional articles.” The assembly had convened for 12 hours on Monday in a closed voting session, Moussa added.

The draft will be sent to the 10-member Legal Experts’ committee to adjust the wording and refer it back to the assembly to conduct its final vote. Moussa said that the final vote on the constitution will either be at the end of this week or the beginning of the next.

Salmawy said that the disagreement over granting minorities quotas will be discussed during a Tuesday evening session, alongside the electoral system to be implemented, reported state-run Al-Ahram. Last week, the assembly was widely criticised by several workers’ unions after it cancelled the 50% parliamentary quota allocated to farmers and labourers since the era of late President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1960s.

The Constituent Assembly spokesman also said on Tuesday that the assembly will look into finalising the constitution’s preamble during Wednesday’s session. The Salafi Al-Nour Party remains insistent on providing a clear definition of the “principles of Islamic Sharia” within the new constitution, to be possibly included in the preamble.

Article 2 of the constitution states that the principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation. The 2012 constitution included Article 219, which defined such principles. Several members of this year’s Constituent Assembly are nevertheless against including this article.

The assembly is also in disagreement over whether or not to state that Egypt is a “civil” state within the preamble to imply that its government is neither religious nor military-oriented. Mohamed Abdel Salam, Al-Azhar Institution’s representative in the assembly, said Al-Azhar is against adding the phrase.

“The assembly had exerted effort and time aiming to reach consensus and achieve everyone’s aspirations,” Moussa said. “We want to grant Egypt a modern constitution which preserves rights and freedoms and opens the door to a future of development.”

Moussa called on Egyptians to read the draft of the constitution and realise that “each word in this text reflects Egypt with all its elements and diversity.” He stressed that he is “fully reassured that every Egyptian can feel that this constitution reflects him and preserves his rights.”

The assembly was expected to begin its final vote on the constitutional articles on Saturday. The vote was nevertheless postponed until the assembly finalises the preamble and reaches consensus over the 20 contentious articles. Salmawy had then said they might start voting on the constitution on Monday or Tuesday.


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