Egyptian constitutional referendum, 2011
|Egyptian constitutional referendum, 2011|
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A constitutional referendum was held in Egypt on 19 March 2011, following the 2011 Egyptian revolution. More than 14 million (77%) were in favour, while around 4 million (23%) opposed the changes; 41% of 45 million eligible voters turned out to vote.
The approved constitutional reforms included a limitation on the presidency to at most two four-year terms, judicial supervision of elections, a requirement for the president to appoint at least one vice president, a commission to draft a new constitution following the parliamentary election, and easier access to presidential elections by candidates—via 30,000 signatures from at least 15 provinces, 30 members of a chamber of the legislature, or nomination by a party holding at least one seat in the legislature.
The reforms were recognised by both sides to increase democratic safeguards, but opponents argued that they did not go far enough and that an election held too soon could favour the well-organised Muslim Brotherhood and members of the former ruling National Democratic Party of Hosni Mubarak. Supporters cited concerns that waiting too long could increase the chances of the military regaining power or risk destabilisation before an election.
A parliamentary election is planned within the next six months, with groups already working to create new political parties, promote candidates and increase turnout among their supporters.
The 1971 constitution was suspended by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces on 13 February 2011, two days after the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. It then organised a committee of jurists to draft amendments to pave the way for new parliamentary and presidential elections.
Had the referendum resulted in a "no" vote, the 1971 constitution would have been nullified and a new one was to be drawn up before elections, which would likely have extended the planned transition period until an election to 2012.
Older constitutional articles
- Article 75 of the Constitution of Egypt states: "The President of the Republic should be an Egyptian born to Egyptian parents and enjoy civil and political rights. His age must not be less than 40 Gregorian years".
- Article 76 of the Constitution of Egypt states: "The People's Assembly shall nominate the President of the Republic. The nomination shall be referred to the people for a plebiscite. The nomination for the President of the Republic shall be made in the People’ Assembly upon the proposal of at least one third of its members. The candidate who obtains two thirds of the votes of the members of the People's Assembly shall be referred to the people for a plebiscite. If he does not obtain the said majority the nomination process shall be repeated two days after the first vote. The candidate obtaining an absolute majority of the votes of the Assembly members shall be referred to the citizens for a plebiscite. The candidate shall be considered President of the Republic when he obtains an absolute majority of votes cast in the plebiscite. If the candidate does not obtain this majority, the Assembly shall propose the nomination of another candidate and the same procedure shall follow concerning his candidature and election".
- Article 77 of the Constitution of Egypt that states: "The term of the presidency shall be six Gregorian years starting from the date of the announcement of result of the plebiscite. The President of the Republic may be re-elected for other successive terms".
- Article 88 of the Constitution of Egypt that states: "The Law shall determine the conditions which members of the Assembly must fulfil as well as the rules of election and referendum, while the ballot shall be conducted under the supervision of the members of a judiciary organ".
- Article 93 of the Constitution of Egypt states: "The People’s Assembly shall be competent to decide upon the validity of the membership of its members. The Court of Cassation shall be competent to investigate the validity of contestations on membership presented to the Assembly after referring them to the Court by the Speaker of the Assembly. The contestation shall be referred to the Court of Cassation within fifteen days as from the date on which the Assembly has been informed thereof while the investigation shall be completed within ninety days from the date on which the contestation is referred to the Court of Cassation. The result of the investigation and the decision reached by the Court shall be submitted to the Assembly to decide upon the validity of the contestation within sixty days from the date of submission of the result of the investigation to the Assembly. Memberships shall not be deemed invalid expect by a decision taken by a majority of two-thirds of the Assembly members".
- Article 139 of the Constitution of Egypt states: "The President of the Republic may appoint one or more Vice-Presidents define their jurisdiction and relieve them of their posts. The rules relating to the calling to account of the President of the Republic shall be applicable to the Vice-Presidents".
- Article 148 of the Constitution of Egypt states: "The President of the Republic shall proclaim a state of emergency in the manner prescribed by the law. Such proclamation must be submitted to the People’s Assembly within the subsequent fifteen days to take a decision upon it. In case the People’s Assembly, is dissolved the matter shall be submitted to the new Assembly at its first meeting. The state of emergency in all cases, shall be for a limited period, which may not be extended unless by approval of the Assembly".
- Article 179 of the Constitution of Egypt states: "The Socialist Public Prosecutor shall be responsible for taking the measures which secure the people’s rights, the safety of the society and its political regime, the preservation of the socialist achievements and commitment to socialist behaviour. The law shall prescribe his other competences. He shall be subject to the control of the People’s Assembly in accordance with what is prescribed by law".
- Article 189 of the Constitution of Egypt states: "The President of the Republic as well as the People’s Assembly may request the amendment of one or more of the articles of the Constitution. The articles to be amended and the reasons justifying such amendments shall be mentioned in the request for amendment. If the request emanates from the People’s Assembly, it should be signed by at least one third of the Assembly members . In all cases, the Assembly shall discuss the amendment in principle, and the decision in this respect shall be taken by the majority of its members. If the request is rejected, the amendment of the same particular articles may not be requested again before the expiration of one year from the date of such rejection. If the People’s Assembly approves an amendment, in principle, the articles requested to be amended shall be discussed two months after the date of the said approval. If the amendment is approved by two thirds of the members of the Assembly, it shall be referred to the people for a plebiscite. If it is approved by the people it shall be considered in force from the date of the announcement of the result of the plebiscite".
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The proposed amendments include the following:
- Article 75: A candidate would be ineligible if he or she had dual nationality, parents who were citizens of countries other than Egypt or married to a non-Egyptian.
- Article 76: Easing the requirements for being a presidential candidate.
- Article 77: Limiting the terms a president can serve to two consecutive terms, each four years only.
- Article 88: The juridical system is responsible for monitoring the election process.
- Article 93: would give the highest appeal court the power to rule on challenges to disputed parliamentary races, whereas before only the parliament could decide.
- Article 139: The president must appoint a vice-president within 60 days of the start of the term
- Article 148: would impose new restrictions on the president declaring a state of emergency, including requiring the approval of a parliamentary majority, and says it cannot exceed six months unless it is extended through a referendum.
- (Article 179): would be canceled. The article allows the president to use military courts for "terror" cases even for civilians.
- (Article 189): Require the newly elected parliament to write a new constitution within 60 days.
- Article 75
The committee proposed a number of qualifications for a person seeking to nominate themselves in presidential elections, including:
- The nominee must be an Egyptian citizen
- Both of the nominee’s parents must be Egyptian citizens
- The nominee must not be under a suspension of political and civic rights
- Neither the nominee nor the nominee’s parents may have held foreign citizenship
- The nominee must not be married to a foreigner
- The nominee must be at least 40 years of age
- Article 76
The committee proposed 3 tracks for nomination which candidates may choose in presidential elections:
- Nominees must win the endorsement of 30 elected members of Parliament;
- Nominees must win the endorsement of 30,000 registered voters from 15 governorates with at least 1000 endorsements from each of those governorates;
- Parties with at least one elected seat in parliament may nominate one of their members in presidential elections.
Members of Parliament and voters may not endorse the nomination of more than 1 candidate for president.
- Article 77
The committee proposed that the term of the President be reduced to four years and that a limit of two terms be adopted.
The issue of limiting presidential powers was postponed until after the elections as part of the new constitution drafting process.
- Article 88
The committee proposed that elections and referendums, from voter registration to the announcement of results, be administered and supervised by an all-judge High Elections Commission, whose composition and mandate will be defined by law.
Members of the judiciary nominated by the supreme councils of the judicial agencies and appointed by the High Elections Commission will supervise ballot casting and counting.
- Article 93
The Committee proposed that competence to determine the validity of membership of parliamentarians be transferred from parliament to the Supreme Constitutional Court. Challenges to the validity of the membership of a parliamentarian must be filed with the Court within 30 days of the election of the parliamentarian in question and decided upon by the Court within 90 days. The ruling the Court would be final.
- Article 139
The committee proposed that the president be required to appoint one or more vice-presidents within 60 days of taking office, and that the president shall determine them and of the vice-president. If the vice-president is dismissed from office, the president must appoint a replacement.
The same qualifications that apply to the presidency would also apply to the vice-president. (See Article 75)
- Article 148
The Committee proposed that the consent of a majority of the members of the People’s Assembly be required to declare a state of emergency. In addition, the Committee proposed that the state of emergency could only be declared for a period of up to 6 months. Also, a renewal of the state of emergency would require a popular referendum.
The committee proposed that if the President declares a state of emergency then the People’s Assembly must review the decision within seven days of the declaration. If the People’s Assembly is not in session at the time, the President must immediately call it to session. If the People’s Assembly is dissolved the declaration must be reviewed by it in its first session.
- Article 179
The committee proposed that the Article be stricken from the constitution. No further information available.
- Article 189 and 189 repeated
The committee proposed that that Shura Council function without it appointment members until such time as a president is elected to fill the appointment of 1/3 of its seats
The committee proposed that the president or at least half the members of the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council may request the drafting of a new constitution.
The committee proposed that within six months of their election the elected members of the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council must appoint, by majority vote, a 100-member constituent assembly to draft a new constitution. The constituent assembly would have to complete the draft within six months of its creation, and within 15 days of the completion of the draft constitution the president must call for a referendum on it.
A March 13 poll by the Egyptian government on its Information and Decision Support Center website said that 24,121 Egyptians (57 percent of the total number of voters) would vote against the amendments, while 15,173 Egyptians (37 percent) supported them. Five percent were undecided.
The Egyptian military called for a media silence over the referendum. It also set up a committee to review the proposed amendments. Later saying it would help to secure a vote on the proposed amendments.
An opposition coalition (including presidential candidates Amr Moussa and Mohamed ElBaradei, the New Wafd Party, the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, the National Progressive Unionist Party, the el-Ghad Party and the Egyptian Arab Socialist Party) criticised the proposed amendments as not enough and that the new constitution needs to be written immediately to regulate the process and the requirements for members of parliament. They also said that the President's power was not limited enough under the proposed changes.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi movement (including preachers such as Sheikh Mohammed Hassan[ar] and Mohammed Abdel Maksoud[ar]), among other Islamist groups,[which?] think that the amendments are suitable for the time being and that the situation in Egypt is not suitable to write a new constitution at the moment. They have suggested that Article 2 of the constitution (which states that "Islam is the Religion of the State. Arabic is its official language, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence") will be removed or altered if the proposed changes are not approved even though the constitutional amendment committee said that Article 2 will not be touched. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi advised Egyptians to approve the referendum. The NDP also have asked their base to vote Yes.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the NDP are also perceived to be in favour of an approval because early elections could benefit them the most as they already have the biggest grassroots support while smaller and newly founded parties would have little time to prepare for elections in the planned schedule.
- Some sheikhs took the platforms on Friday and focused in their sermons to call onto worshipers to vote yes.
- The Egyptian Coptic Church and other Christian denominations in Egypt have called their Christian faithful to vote No.
- Mohamed ElBaradei was attacked by men throwing rocks at him as he tried to vote in Mokattam. He left without voting and later voted elsewhere.
- A Salafist hang a sign, which distinguish between those who are voting yes, and those voting no in front of a committee.
- The two women wearing a niqāb distributed leaflets calling for a vote yes in front of a committee.
|Egyptian constitutional referendum, 2011|
|Invalid or blank votes||171,190||0.92|
|Governorate||Total votes||Valid votes||Invalid votes||"Yes" votes||"Yes" %||"No" votes||"No" %|
|6th of October||574,399||568,256||6,143||479,716||83.5%||88,540||15.4%|
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