Rules and Criteria for Forming the Constituent Assembly and its Relation to the Committee of Experts – ECWR Proposals
The 8 July Constitutional Declaration sets out a mechanism for amending the Constitution in accordance with Articles 28 and 29 which stipulate the following:
By decision of the President of the Republic and within a period not exceeding 15 days from the date of issuance of the Constitutional Declaration, a Committee of Experts shall be formed which consists of 2 members from the Supreme Constitutional Court and its Body of Commissioners, 2 members from the Judiciary and 4 Professors of constitutional law from Egyptian Universities. The Supreme Councils of the aforementioned judicial bodies and authorities shall select their representatives and the High Council of the Universities shall select the Professors of constitutional law.
The Committee shall have the authority to propose amendments to the suspended Constitution of 2012, provided that it concludes its deliberations within 30 days from the date of its formation. The decision issued by the President of the Republic to form the Committee of Experts shall set the venue for the Committee meetings and the rules governing its work.
The Committee defined in the preceding Article, shall submit its proposed constitutional amendments to an Assembly consisting of 50 members who shall represent all demographic groups, sectors and factions of society, particularly the political parties, intellectuals, workers, farmers, members of professional syndicates, unions, national councils, Al-Azhar, the Egyptian churches, the Armed Forces, the Police and public figures, provided that at least 10 members are women and young people. Each body shall nominate its representatives and the Cabinet shall nominate public figures.
The Assembly must complete its final draft amendments to the Constitution within 60 days at most from receipt of the amendments proposed by the Committee of Experts, during which time the Assembly shall be committed to opening up the final draft to a national dialogue. The President of the Republic shall issue the requisite decisions regarding the Assembly’s formation and venue. The Assembly shall determine the rules governing its work and measures to ensure there is a national dialogue on the amendments.
Despite the Articles providing for criteria that seem fair, they omit considerations of gender which always lead, albeit unintentionally, to the exclusion of Egyptian women from those tasked with creating our future. One can look to the Committee of Experts set up to revise the Constitution as an example of gender inequality, since those criteria were based on positions of power women had been excluded from for many decades. The Committee was therefore devoid of a single female expert despite the availability of female justices with proven competence in the Constitutional Court, the Court of Cassation and the Technical Office for the Minister of Justice, as well as many female Professors of constitutional law in law faculties throughout all governorates of Egypt.
In this new Egypt, which we are all striving to ensure is a state founded on justice and equality after the significant participation of Egyptian women in the revolutions, particularly those of the 30 June and 26 July, responsibility for involving women, even for calling on women to get involved and clearing the way for them, lies with leaders seeking to bring about real democracy, especially since women have confirmed their willingness to shoulder the responsibility for building this nation.
It has therefore become necessary to adopt measures that ensure participation of women is fair. A minimal level of participation by women has been laid down in Article 29 which, whilst a positive indication of good intentions, nonetheless is ineffective and will boost the representation of women no more than the flawed Constitutional Committee of the Muslim Brotherhood did, indeed, with this Assembly of 50, will be perhaps more like no boost at all.
Consequently, we propose the following rule be applied to the nominations to ensure each body tasked with nominating women makes every effort to address the cultural and social misconceptions that discriminate against women, working towards providing a real cadre of competent women. The rule is as follows:
Each body should nominate twice the number of representatives it was tasked with nominating, provided that half the nominations go to men and half to women, with the exception of the army and the police, based on Article 29 of the Constitutional Declaration which has allocated a minimum of 10 seats to women and young people. However, Article 29 does not stipulate a maximum number, so long as the most competent candidates, whether male or female, are selected based on their employment history and their practical or professional contribution to supporting democratic development in Egypt. In addition, it is necessary to ensure the number of young men and young women does not fall below 10 for each gender in all membership categories, since Article 29 of the Constitutional Declaration set aside a minimum of 10 seats for women and young people but did not stipulate a maximum. Taking into consideration the geographical diversity of nominations and guided by the principles above, we propose the following criteria:
- The representative number of leaders from the main political persuasions (Liberals, Leftists, Islamists, Nationalists) should not exceed 8: 2 members from each political persuasion should be nominated by the relevant political parties.
- 10 seats should be allocated to young men and young women: 1 seat should be nominated by each of the 4 main political persuasions, 1 seat by the General Union of Egyptian University Students (which should be taken by the elected President of the Union or equivalent) and 2 seats should be allocated to the young people of the 30 June revolution as nominated by the Tamarrod movement and 2 seats to the Coordinating Committee. 1 seat should go to an outstanding student nominated by the Supreme Council for Universities.
- 2 seats should be allocated to representatives of Al-Azhar and 2 seats to representatives of the three Egyptian churches.
- 1 seat should be allocated to the armed forces and 1 to the police.
- 8 seats should be allocated to public figures nominated by the Cabinet, selected from among scientists, intellectuals, writers, artists, experts and Professors of political and social sciences.
- 4 seats should be allocated to those nominated by the Union of Professional Syndicates.
- 4 seats should be allocated to the workers’ syndicates: the Union of Egyptian Workers and the Union of Independent Syndicates should nominate one member each and the General Syndicate of Farmers should nominate 2 members.
- 4 seats should be allocated to organisations in the business sector, 1 member nominated by each of the following: the Federation of Egyptian Industries, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Chambers of Tourism and the Union of Egyptian Banks.
- 3 seats should be allocated to human rights NGOs of every kind, nominated through NGOs. Selection should be based on the practical and intellectual contribution made to supporting human rights in Egypt.
- 3 seats should be allocated to the national councils: 1 seat each to the National Council for Human Rights, the National Council for Women and the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, after they have been restructured to be more representative of human rights issues.