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Members of Egypt’s constitution committee meet at the Shura Council for the final vote on a draft new constitution in Cairo yesterday.
CAIRO: The assembly drafting Egypt’s new constitution voted yesterday to limit the president’s term of office to two four-year terms, ending the system of unlimited tenure during the era of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, who ruled for 30 years.
Members of the assembly approved the article in a final vote before the constitution draft is put to a public referendum within 15 days of the president’s ratification. “The president of the republic shall be elected for four years, which begin on the day following the end of the term of his predecessor. He may be re-elected only once,” the article read.
The president will need to seek the opinion of the National Defence Council in addition to getting the approval of parliament to declare war, according to an article. The old constitution in the era of Mubarak, a former air force commander, had only required the approval of parliament. The new article, will give the defence council, which includes top officers and civilians, a formal say in such a decision. President Mohammed Mursi is Egypt’s first president who does not hail from top military ranks.
Mursi’s decree last week halting court challenges to his decisions, which provoked protests and violence across the country, will lapse if Egyptians approve the new constitution.
In an interview with Time, Mursi said the majority supported his decree but added: “If we had a constitution, then all of what I have said or done last week will stop.”
“May God bless us on this day,” Hossam El Gheriyani, the Speaker of the constituent assembly, told members at the start of the session to vote on each of the 234 articles in the draft, which will go to Mursi for approval and then to the plebiscite.
The constitution is one of the main reasons the Islamists are at loggerheads with opponents who are boycotting the 100-member constitutional assembly, saying their voices were not being heard.
The assembly’s legitimacy has been called into question by a series of court cases demanding its dissolution. Its standing has also suffered from the withdrawal of members including church representatives of the Christian minority and liberals.
Once the assembly backs the draft it will go to Mursi for approval, a step expected at the weekend. He must then call the referendum within 15 days. If Egyptians approve the constitution, legislative powers will pass straight from Mursi to the upper house of parliament, in line with an article in the new constitution, assembly members said.
The draft injects new Islamic references into Egypt’s system of government but keeps in place an article defining “the principles of Shariah” as the main source of legislation - the same phrase found in the previous constitution.
Activists highlighted other flaws such as worrying articles pertaining to the rights of women and freedom of speech. Reuters