EVEN EGYPT SEE THE VALUE IN LIMITING TERMS OF GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS!
CAIRO — Future presidents of Egypt will only be allowed to stay in office for eight years according to constitutional amendments that will open up competition for the position held for three decades by ousted leader Hosni Mubarak.
The proposed amendments outlined on Saturday by a judicial committee appointed by Egypt’s ruling military council will be put to a referendum ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections that will hand power back to a civilian government.
Mubarak was serving in his fifth, six-year term when he was toppled on Feb. 11, forced from office by a mass uprising driven in large part by demands for reform to put an end to the one-man rule that has defined Egyptian government for decades.
By capping the number of terms a leader can serve, Egypt will be offering an example to other Arab states ruled for decades by autocrats. They include Tunisia, whose president was toppled last month, and Libya, whose leader now faces a revolt.
The existing constitution, suspended by the military council to which Mubarak handed power, made it almost impossible for an opposition candidate to mount a challenge to his ruling National Democratic Party.
Saturday’s announcement is a milestone along Egypt’s road towards the elections which the military council says it hopes to hold within six months and which Egyptians hope will usher in a new era of democracy.
“When the president knows that the period is a maximum of eight years, his despotism will be reduced or eliminated completely,” said Mohamed el-Katatni, a spokesman for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
Under the amendments, the elections will be subject to judicial supervision, said retired judge Tariq al-Bishri, the head of the committee. He outlined terms for candidacy which are much looser than current requirements.
The military council has indicated the proposals will be open to public debate, after which more changes can be made.
The many critics of Egypt’s constitution say the country still needs an entirely new one. Even after the amendments, the document is riddled with contradictions and still bestows too much power on the president, among other flaws, they say.
Bishri said a new constitution would be drawn up after elections. The judicial committee had faced calls to propose changes that would allow quick formation of political parties – something which is highly restricted under existing laws.
ARMY SAYS SORRY TO PROTESTERS
The failure to do so means it is now up to the military council to make changes that will let people form parties in the run-up to the elections, said Mustapha Kamal al-Sayyid, a political scientist.
“It’s really important to accelerate the establishment of political parties so we have clear alternatives,” he said.
The proposed amendments will also make it complicated for a president to maintain the state of emergency – in place for decades – which opposition activists want lifted as part of their broad demands for reform.
Pressing their demands, thousands of protesters gathered on Friday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the hub of the uprising against Mubarak. They were calling for a complete overhaul of the government, still headed by a prime minister Mubarak appointed.
In the early hours of the morning, the military broke up the remnants of the protest by force, using sticks and tasers, protesters said, in the toughest moves yet by the army against the demonstrators.
The military council apologised, said there had been no order to assault the protesters, and called the incident unintentional. Twenty-seven protesters detained overnight were released, the army said, blaming the incident on “infiltrators” it said had thrown bottles and rocks at soldiers.
As day broke, a few dozen protesters left in the square flagged down motorists, telling them that the army had attacked the protest. A number of the activists held aloft signs declaring “the army betrayed the people”.
One taxi driver remonstrated with a protester, telling him: “The people can’t find food to eat.” His view reflected the feelings of those Egyptians who believe continued protests are obstructing a return to normality.