The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The opposition's thoughts on article 76

Here are the proposals that are coming out of the dialogue among civil society and opposition leaders, as well as notable personalities, on the amendment of article 76:

Recommendations of experts' round table discussion of the presidential proposal to amend article 76 of the Egyptian constitution

With participation of many administrative and constitutional law professors, judges, representatives of political parties in Egypt, and human rights activists, the Alliance for Democracy and Reform (ADR) held a round table discussion on "President Mubarak's proposal to amend article 76 of the Egyptian constitution", the meeting was held in Cairo March 8th 2005.

Participants agreed that the Egyptian constitution needs revising and reconsideration, specially regarding articles related to the authorities of the president, balance of powers and the formation of political parties.

As for how the president is elected, the participants reached two sets of recommendations:

1) Recommendations about the conditions of candidacy to presidential elections

2) Recommendations about the required guarantees to secure fair presidential elections.

The following are the most important items that the participating experts mentioned in this regard.

1 - Conditions of candidacy to presidential elections

· candidates must be Egyptians, with Egyptian parents and grand parents

· candidates must not have dual nationality

· candidates must fully enjoy their political and civil rights

· candidates must be supported by a number of eligible citizens

· It should not be required for candidates to have the support of local assemblies or members of people's assembly.

· Financial guarantees in candidacy requirements should be eased.

· A governmental fund should be established to finance candidates that acquire the support of a defined minimum of votes.

· Any 50 citizens should have the opportunity to present a candidate for presidency, either through the agencies they work at or through civil registration.

2 - Guarantees required to secure fair presidential elections.

The gathering experts agreed that a series of guarantees are needed to secure that the coming presidential elections will be fair and democratic, among these guarantees:

· The constitution should contain the main principles for electing the president, such as stating that he is elected through direct universal voting, while the details should be contained in the relevant laws especially political rights law.

· Emergency laws should be canceled before the elections.

· Elections should be held after the president gives up his belonging to any political party.

· Elections should be held after the wide authorities of the president are constrained.

· Full judicial supervision over the election through an independent agency that is not subject to the ministry of justice. This agency might be a committee that consists of judges, with an independent administrative structure and an independent budget, and whose decisions might be appealed. This committee should have branches all over the governorates in Egypt.

· Elections should not be held in one day, so that judicial supervision is possible.

· Different guarantees must be taken to verify voters' identity, and make sure that they vote only one time.

The only thing that really surprises me is the insistence of disqualifying dual nationals. I wonder if this is designed to exclude a lot of the business elite, much of which has dual nationality (usually American or Canadian.) But maybe it's just complying with the existing regulations on parliamentary membership. Lowering the requirement to only 50 endorsements (from any citizens) also sets a rather low threshold. Finally, requiring that the president gives up belonging to any political party is downright weird and potentially dangerous in that it sets the possibility of a president from the military that oversees a secondary party political process.