Objections and abstentions in new draft constitution


By Saturday evening, the 50-member committee tasked with amending the constitution, finalized voting on 138 articles of the draft.


The articles covered during Saturday’s voting session include the basic principles of the state, social and economic rights, freedoms, the rule of law as well as the legislative branch of state.


All 138 articles were passed with a sweeping majority by the committee, of which only two members were absent. On average, an article got one to two “no” votes, while there was no article for which “no” votes and abstentions were more than 11 of the total 48 votes.


The most controversial article that received more than two “no” votes was Article 64, which grants absolute freedom of belief. It received eight objections and three abstentions. The word “absolute” is new in the 2013 draft.


Article 7 received 38 “yes” votes out of the 48 and it pertains to the role of Al-Azhar, whereby the stipulation in the 2012 Constitution granting it the right to be consulted on Islamic Sharia issues has been removed. 


Article 137 similarly received seven objections. The article bans the president from dissolving parliament, except in “conditions of necessity” which are not specified, and following a referendum. In the 2012 Constitution, this article added a scenario whereby a referendum rejects the dissolution of parliament, in which case the president resigns. It is unclear in the new draft what would happen should a referendum reject the president’s call to dissolve parliament. 


Article 53, which grants citizens equality before the law, regardless of their religion, doctrine, gender, race, color, language, handicap, social status, political or geographic affiliation received five objections. In its 2012 form, this article was far more vague, simply granting citizens equality, while in its new form, it focuses on possible forms of discrimination that should be banned and criminalized.


Article 80 defining children’s rights received four objections and one abstention. The current article specifies a child’s age to be below 18 and adds their entitlement to registration documents, which was not included in the 2012 Constitution. Also what was a right to “religious, existential and knowledge development” in the previous document has become a right to “religious education and existential and knowledge development.” The current draft also commits the state to protect children from any form of violence and sexual or commercial exploitation, which is new compared to the previous document. The new draft also gives children the right to education until the sixth grade. Finally the new draft commits the state to providing a special judicial system for children who are either witnesses or victims. 


Article 61 received four objections granting people the right to donate organs during and after their life in accordance with the law. The article has no equivalent in the 2012 Constitution. 


Article 3 also received four objections and it gives the right to Christians and Jews to refer to their own principles on personal status and religious issues. The article is no different from that in the 2012 Constitution.


Article 135 also received four objections and it concerns parliament’s right to form fact-finding committees. While being identical to the 2012 stipulation, 2013’s draft adds that each MP has the right to receive any information and data from the executive authority pertaining to their work in parliament.  


Article 124 received three objections and one abstention regarding the state budget and parliament’s right to review it. The 2013 stipulation is similar to its predecessor in the 2012 Constitution, while it adds that the law issued for the budget should not add any additional burdens on citizens. The previous version stipulated that if the new budget has not been accepted by parliament ahead of the fiscal year, the old budget would remain in implementation.


Article 99, which criminalizes any breaches of personal and private life, also received three objections. The article limits the role of the National Human Rights Council to intervening only in civil suits against suspects accused of violating personal life as opposed to appealing a court order as stipulated in the previous Constitution.


Article 6, which institutes the right to citizenship for people born to Egyptian mothers or fathers and which has no equivalent in the previous document, received two objections and two abstentions.


Article 26 received one objection and two abstentions and it pertains to banning the institution of civil titles, which was also been banned in the previous Constitution.


Article 50 received five abstentions and one objection and pertains to the state commitment to preserve Egypt’s civilizational and cultural heritage. Included within this heritage are ancient, Coptic and Islamic history, as well as contemporary architectural, artistic and literary wealth. ُThe article has no equivalent in the 2012 Constitution.


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