Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – A high-level military source has confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that a supplementary constitutional declaration will not be issued before the presidential elections; rather it will be announced if the presidential elections are settled in the first round. The supplementary constitutional declaration will determine the immediate powers of the upcoming president, as well as outlining the criteria for the structure of the constituent assembly, which will ultimately draft Egypt’s new constitution.
In exclusive statements to Asharq al-Awsat, the source added that the preparation of the supplementary constitutional declaration is being conducted through a consensus with all the major political powers and parties, according to the demands of many of these entities. However, a number of the political powers conferred and announced their rejection of any resolution that is issued without their knowledge with regards to the supplementary constitutional declaration, claiming that they would not recognize such a decision.
Local press reports had previously indicated that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] would issue the supplementary constitutional declaration before the presidential elections.
The high-level military source said that SCAF will engage in discussions with political parties regarding the powers of the upcoming president that will be proposed in the declaration, before it is issued officially. The source stressed that the supplementary declaration will not be put to a referendum, especially as it is only a temporary measure, and after the elected president assumes his duties the army will return to the barracks and will play no further role other than its duties ratified by the law and the constitution.
The source refused to comment on the rumors that SCAF or the military establishment will obtain some form of immunity after handing over power. He stressed that the motive of all officers, non-commissioned personnel and privates within the armed forces was to work for Egypt and for the glory of the country. The source deemed the rumors of a safe exit for SCAF to be not worthy of an answer, and claimed that history would record the role undertaken by the Egyptian armed forces in protecting the revolution, protecting the country, and implementing the transition towards genuine democracy. He argued that Egypt has already produced the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council through free and fair elections, which the world witnessed; and furthermore on the 23rd and 24th May 2012 the strongest and most impartial presidential elections ever known in the region will be conducted.
On the other hand, representatives of the Egyptian National Front (ENF), which includes members of several political parties, have dissociated themselves from the negotiations taking place between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wafd Party regarding the supplementary constitutional declaration. The ENF has denied that it is a party to the current negotiations, and stresses that any agreement does not represent anyone other than the signatories. The representatives stressed the ENF’s commitment not to re-negotiate the criteria for the constituent assembly, which were originally ratified by all, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
The ENF statement is signed by the National Progressive Unionist Party (NPUP), the Free Egyptians Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Democratic Front Party, the Dignity Party, the Justice Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, and the Union of Professional Syndicates. This is in addition to Samih Ashur, General Coordinator of the ENF and chairman of the advisory board, and Dr Abdul-Jalil Mustafa, the representative for the National Front for Change.
As the presidential elections prevail over the political scene in Egypt, many political powers are concerned that a supplementary constitutional declaration might be passed without their agreement or knowledge, especially as this declaration, considering the powers that it will define, will determine the shape of the forthcoming regime in Egypt.
Dr Refaat El-Saeed, leader of the left-wing NPUP, says that the Muslim Brotherhood, whose political party controls the parliamentary majority, together with the liberal Wafd Party are trying to agree on the criteria of the constituent assembly and the supplementary constitutional declaration “behind our backs, and hence we declare that we are not bound by the results of the negotiations between them, even if these results are ratified by SCAF.”
For his part, Yasser Hassan, a member of the Wafd Party’s supreme committee, revealed that so far there have been no meetings between political powers over this issue. Hassan pointed out that the Wafd Party hopes a supplementary constitutional declaration is issued to clarify the situation and the powers of the upcoming president. His party advocates a supplementary declaration that outlines fewer powers for the president, and a move towards a mixed (parliamentary-presidential) system of government.
Yasser Hassan explained that the two key issues of contention are the ability of parliament to withdraw its confidence from the government, and the power of the president to dissolve parliament. He said that the Wafd Party would prefer the upcoming president to have the power to nominate the government’s sovereign portfolios, while the rest of the government should be formed from the parliamentary majority. Furthermore, according to Hassan, parliament ought to have the right to withdraw its confidence from the government, and the president ought to have the right to dissolve parliament.
The consecutive Egyptian constitutions and constitutional declarations since the 1952 revolution have consecrated the current presidential system, which was ratified by the 1971 permanent constitution. This constitution granted the head of state significant powers, which have been described by some people as ‘absolute’, and various political powers are trying to avoid a repeated scenario with the upcoming constitutional declaration.
Ali Fath El-Bab, spokesman for the (Muslim Brotherhood affiliated) Freedom and Justice Party in the Shura Council, insisted that the Muslim Brotherhood have no problem if the president is not affiliated to their group, as they still hold the parliamentary majority. He stressed that the Brotherhood are not pursuing a postponement of the new constitution or the supplementary constitutional declaration for their own benefit.
Fath El-Bab also claimed that SCAF does not have the power to pass legislation. He explained: “From a legal viewpoint, SCAF does not have the right to legislate law, and hence it cannot issue a constitution or a constitutional declaration. Article 60 of the constitutional declaration of 30th March 2011 stipulates that if the president (or SCAF acting in its place) wants to issue a law, then it must be passed through parliament first.”