Egypt - Government
|Gamal Abdul Nasser||1954||1970|
|Anwar as Sadat||1970||1981|
An Egyptian court suspended an Islamist-dominated panel that has the job of rewriting the country's constitution. The ruling issued 10 April 2012 followed complaints from lawyers and liberal political parties who say the Islamist majority in the new parliament abused its powers by allocating a majority of the panel's seats to themselves and like-minded individuals. Many liberal and leftist party members had already withdrawn from the 100-member panel in protest of Islamist attempts to dominate the process. Forging a new constitution was a crucial step in Egypt's attempts to form a new government.
Just after the polls closed on 17 June 2012, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] issued a constitutional declaration, granting itself legislative powers, control of the economy and the right to pick who will draft the next constitution. According to the Complementary Constitutional Declaration, SCAF shall form a new constitution-drafting panel within a week to draft a new constitution within three months. Under the declaration, the new constitution shall be put to referendum within 15 days from being drafted.
Issuing a complementary Constitutional Declaration was necessary to help Egypt transfer to a democratic state through a tough process that has been replete with dangers and challenges. What led SCAF to issue the complementary Constitutional Declaration was the failure to write the constitution before the holding of the presidential vote, the end of the state of emergency and the dissolution of the parliament by a court ruling.
Under the Complementary Constitutional Declaration, the president elect will be sworn in before the General Assembly of the Supreme Constitutional Court. The new president was expected to take oath in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court and will exercise his powers in line with the constitutional declaration until drafting a constitution for the nation. Under the declaration, the constitution will be drafted in a period of three months, followed by new parliamentary elections.
The incumbent SCAF members are responsible for deciding on all issues related to the armed forces including appointing its leaders and extending the terms in office of the aforesaid leaders. The current head of the SCAF is to act as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and minister of defense until a new constitution is drafted. SCAF member Major General Mohamed el-Assar and SCAF member Major General Mamdouh Shaheen addressed a joint press conference on Monday 18 June 2012. The elected president will have complete powers with full respect, Assar said. The president will be in charge of appointing the government, the deputy premiers and the ministers including the defense minister, Shaheen said, stressing that the president will also have the power to fire them. When asked about whether the complementary Constitutional Declaration gives the SCAF the mandate to stay in power till the end of the year, Shaheen said the elected president will be handed over full powers, including those of forming the government, noting that SCAF will only, under the new declaration, hold some legislative powers until a new parliament is elected to replace the dissolved one.
A referendum was held on 19 March 2011 in which a majority of 77.2% voted for the amendments introduced to Articles 75, 76 and 77 on the presidentís qualifications, election and tenure, Article 88 on the judicial supervision of elections, Article 93 on the Determination of the Validity of Parliamentarians' Membership, Article 193 on the appointment of vice presidents, Article 148 on declaring the state of emergency, and Article 179 on counter-terrorism. A new paragraph was introduced to Article 189 in addition to 2 other Articles: Article 189 (Idem) and Article 189 (Idem) A on the Promulgation of a New Constitution.
On 30 March, 2011, SCAF promulgated a Constitutional Declaration organizing the affairs of the State until a new parliament and president are elected. The Declaration consists of 63 Articles, including those over which the referendum was held. The 1971 Constitution was suspended. Law No. 12 of 2011 on Political Parties was promulgated, allowing the formation of new parties by notification. More than 50 parties were so-formed.
Egypt's political and administrative systems are one of the oldest in the world. Constitutions, parliaments, responsible governance and judicial authorities, which were long-established attributes of ancient Egypt, have been introduced to other nations in the 19th century. Egypt has overhauled its political and democratic systems with the purpose of deepening democracy, promoting freedoms, upholding law and advocating respect of human rights. Parliament was introduced to Egypt in 1824; and the Constitution in 1882. The Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt was promulgated on September 11, 1971 and amended on May 22, 1980, May 25, 2005 and March, 2007.
The Egyptian Constitution provided for a strong executive. Authority is vested in an elected president who can appoint one or more vice presidents, a prime minister, and a cabinet. The president's term runs for 6 years. Egypt's legislative body, the People's Assembly, had 454 members -- 444 popularly elected and 10 appointed by the president. The constitution reserved 50% of the assembly seats for "workers and peasants." The assembly sat for a 5-year term but can be dissolved earlier by the President. There also was a 264-member Shura (consultative) Council, in which 88 members were appointed and 174 elected for 6-year terms. Below the national level, authority was exercised by and through governors and mayors appointed by the central government and by popularly elected local councils.
Egypt's judicial system was based on European (primarily French) legal concepts and methods. Under the Mubarak government, the courts demonstrated increasing independence, and the principles of due process and judicial review gained greater respect. The legal code was derived largely from the Napoleonic Code. Marriage and personal status (family law) were primarily based on the religious law of the individual concerned, which for most Egyptians is Islamic Law (Sharia).
In the civil court system, there were criminal courts, civil courts, administrative courts, family courts and the Supreme Constitutional Court. There were three levels of regular criminal courts: primary courts; appeals courts; and the Court of Cassation, which represents the final stage of criminal or civil appeals. Civil courts heard civil cases and administrative courts heard cases contesting government actions or procedures; both systems had upper-level courts to hear appeals. The Supreme Constitutional Court hears challenges to the constitutionality of laws or verdicts in any of the courts.
The constitution provided for an independent judiciary, but in practice the judiciary was subject to executive influence and corruption. The president may invoke the Emergency Law to refer any criminal case to the emergency or military courts, in which the accused did not receive most of the constitutional protections of the civilian judicial system, and the government continued to use the Emergency Law to try non-security cases in these courts and to restrict many other basic rights. The constitution provided for the independence and immunity of judges and forbids interference by other authorities in the exercise of their judicial functions. The government generally respected judicial independence in non-political cases in civilian courts. Emergency courts, however, were not independent.
The president appointed all judges upon recommendation of the Higher Judicial Council, a constitutional body composed of senior judges. Judges receive tenure, limited only by mandatory retirement at age 70. Only the Higher Judicial Council may dismiss judges for cause, such as corruption. Headed by the president of the Court of Cassation, the council regulated judicial promotions and transfers.
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