Parliament’s General Committee approves request to amend Constitution

Parliament’s General Committee approved the proposal to usher in a host of constitutional amendments — including amendments to presidential term limits that would allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to run for two more six-year terms beyond 2022 — that were submitted to the legislature earlier this week, Parliamentary speaker and head of the committee Ali Abdel Aal announced to Parliament’s general assembly on Tuesday.

The committee’s confirmation came in the form of a report, drafted after discussions on Sunday and Tuesday, in which it stated that the proposal signed by 155 MPs met all constitutional and procedural requirements to move forward with the amendment process.

“Following extensive discussions, the two sessions concluded with a ruling that the proposal is in compliance with constitutional and procedural terms and conditions, and, as such, more than two thirds of the General Committee members approved the principle of amending the Constitution,” the report, which was prepared by the General Committee and which Mada Masr obtained a copy of, read.

In accordance with the Parliament’s bylaws, the General Committee consists of the legislature’s two deputies, heads of the 19 special committees, representatives of parliamentary bodies and five other MPs selected by Parliament’s bureau. One of the five members must be an independent MP, if the total number of independent MPs in the legislature is 10 or more.

During the general assembly session, Abdel Aal stated that the committee’s report will be made available to all MPs at least seven days before the session scheduled for discussion of the draft amendments.

On Sunday, MP Abdel Hady al-Qasabi, the head of the state-allied Alliance to Support Egypt coalition, which holds a majority in Parliament, submitted a proposal, signed by over one fifth of MPs in the House of Representatives, calling to amend several articles in the Constitution, including presidential term limits.

The amendments, a copy of which Mada Masr has since obtained, would extend the presidential term to six years and includes a “transitional” provision that would allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to run twice more once his second term ends in 2022, which should be his final term in office, according to the current Constitution.

In a report published in December, Mada Masr spoke to sources in the president’s office, the General Intelligence Service (GIS) and Parliament who documented coordination to extend Sisi’s stay in office. According to the report, meetings had been held on a nearly daily basis at the GIS headquarters between intelligence officials and the president’s office in order to finalize the amendments and the date of the referendum through which they will be passed. The same sources told Mada Masr that Mahmoud al-Sisi, the president’s son — who currently holds a senior position within the GIS — is the person heading these meetings, under the supervision of GIS head Abbas Kamel, who took part in several of the meetings.

Security sources had conveyed to a senior political party leader, who spoke to Mada Masr at the time, that the security apparatus would not tolerate dissent on any scale regarding the amendments.

According to parliamentary bylaws, if the General Assembly approves the amendments in principle, Parliament will then refer the proposed amendments and the General Committee’s report to its Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee. The latter will, in turn, prepare a report to be presented back to Parliament, detailing its examination of the proposed amendments, including any revisions to the draft, within sixty days.

During this time, the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee must present the report it drafted to a public forum, in which two thirds of the committee’s members must be present. Following the public forum, the the majority of the committee must approve the draft before it is presented to the president of the republic and submitted to Parliament, according to Article 138 of the parliamentary bylaws.

After the 60-day period from Parliament’s initial referral of the amendments to the committee, there is a 15-day period in which a hearing session must be scheduled to discuss the report issued by the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee. The report is to be read aloud during the session before discussion. A vote will be taken, in accordance with Article 139 of the bylaws, and a two-thirds majority is required for the amendments to pass.