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Egypt’s Constitutional Referendum

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The following is a guest post by George Sadek, Senior Legal Information Analyst.

Last month I wrote about the constitutional dilemma in Egypt and some of the possibilities for moving forward.  Since then a number of important events have happened, which eventually led to Egyptians voting in favor of constitutional amendments to the 1971 Constitution on March 19, 2011.  By a margin of seventy-seven percent, Egyptians approved the suggested amendments to Articles 75, 76, 77, 88, 93, 139, 148, 179, and 189 of the Constitution.

Different factors have been suggested for pushing the masses to vote affirmatively for those amendments, including the desire for political and social stability, as well as the protection under Article 2 of the Constitution which highlights the Islamic identity of Egypt.

The new amendments adopted various initiatives.  These initiatives target the following: reducing the term of the presidency from six to four years; allowing the elected president to serve for two terms only; introducing multiple opportunities for presidential candidates to get on the ballot; requiring the president to elect a vice president; granting the judiciary branch the right to exercise full supervision over presidential and paramilitary elections; setting forth a requirement under which the president will have the authority to declare a state of emergency; and abolishing the president’s right to try civilians in military court.

The day after the referendum, the Supreme Military Council, the de facto presidential council of Egypt, reasserted that it does not have any intention to hold onto power.  It also announced the issuance of a constitutional declaration.  The constitutional declaration will act as the basic law of Egypt during the transitional period.  During this period, a parliamentary election will take place, where one hundred members of the parliament will be elected to draft a new constitution.  Moreover, members of the military council declared that the presidential election will be conducted within sixty days of the parliamentary election.

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