POLITICS: Egypt Approves Constitutional Amendments To Complete Mega Projects

0
160

By Mohamed Fahmy

EGYPTIAN’S poor, elderly people and some of the upper class flocked to ballot stations
to approve a raft of changes aimed at spurring development of mega projects while
extending incumbent President al-Sisi’s tenure till 2030.
In contrast, mid-aged people from the upper class disapproved the amendments while
the remainder abstained because they do not feel their voices would make any
difference.
The package of 14 amendments to the 2014 constitution, targeted at boosting the
political life and accelerate the legislative process, was approved with 88.83 percent
voting in favour believing it an ideal conduit to spur development.
The amendments include changing the length of presidential terms from four to six
years. They also extend the second term of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, which is set
to end in 2022, by two years, and allow him to run for office for another term 2030.
According to the report prepared by parliament’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs
Committee, President Al-Sisi has no connection in any way with the proposed
amendments.
“The president did not have a hand anyway in proposing or drafting these amendments,
but the committee makes it clear that the president came to power amid very tough
conditions, and so most MPs, in appreciation of his historical role in recovering Egypt’s
stability, decided to extend his term in order to be able to achieve his development
programs, particularly as Egypt is in bad need, for as long as possible, of a period of
political and institutional stability.”
The amendments also allocate a quarter of the seats in parliament to women. They also
give the president new powers to appoint members of the judiciary, and would create a
second chamber of parliament (the Senate), with one-third of its members to be
appointed by the president, and re-introduce the post of vice president.
When on July 3, 2013, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, then the army’s top
general, ousted former president Mohamed Morsi from power, the economy was in
freefall. Growth was just two percent a year, inflation was in the double digits and an
already high unemployment rate had spiked to 13 percent, with the youth
unemployment rate more than doubled that. Foreign reserves had fallen below $17
billion.

But when al-Sisi assumed the presidency the following year, he quickly set about trying
to shore up the country’s finances, reaching out to foreign countries for cash infusions
while at the same time launched mega national projects.
Several politicians and analysts realised that the status quo in Egypt needed a period of
stability in which the decision makers can push the economy forward and pursue the
mega development projects launched in Suez Canal and the new administrative capital,
40 Km off Cairo.
Some of these projects such the development of the Suez Canal Corridor,
establishment a new generation of new cities, reclamation of one million and half
feddans, the development of the western north coast by establishing a set of horizontal
and longitudinal corridors as well as industrial, tourist, urban, agricultural and power
generation projects in addition to the golden triangle in southern Egypt, where its sketch
will be adopted end of June this year.
It aims at establishing an economic, mining and tourist area on the coast of the Red
Sea.
Moreover, the establishment of major roads, where a 5000 km road network is currently
implemented that covers all governorates of Egypt, as well as establishing 30 June
corridor, the new Galala City, that aim to develop the Suez Gulf and Al Ain al Sokhna
area and attract more tourist investments and create new job opportunities.
Two revolutions in 2011 and 2013, a long period of political turmoil spread in the state
and it resulted in a huge economic crisis because of declining tourism revenues and a
sharp drop in investments.
Referendums in Egypt have always ended with “approval.”
For many decades, the “no” bloc has lost in all the referendums held in Egypt in the
past.
The proposed constitutional amendments, showed the political climate in Egypt
diversifying into different voices materialised in the voting process.
Yet oppositions groups argued that the amendments were introduced by the pro-
government bloc in the parliament, called “Support Egypt”, and didn’t represent the
public opinion.
It is the philosophy of any constitution that really matter. The philosophy of the
constitution, any constitution, is more important than its texts.
Text may be amended because the constitution is not a holy book. The parliament’s
legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which drafted the amendments, said:
“The philosophy of amending the constitution is based on building strong, balanced and
democratic institutions.”
Head of the NEA Lashin Ibrahim said that the turnout of voters stood at

27 193 593 including both expats and local voters constituting 44.33 percent of 61 344
503 eligible voters. There were 26 362 421 valid votes, standing at 96.94 percent, while
831 172 votes were void (3.06 percent).
The referendum was held in 10 878 polling stations and 13 919 committees, while the
number of judges supervising the referendum was about 20 000 from different judicial
bodies, assisted by some 120 000 employees all over Egyptian governorates.
The amendments had been overwhelmingly approved by parliament on 16 April, with
531 out of 596 members voting in favour, 22 voting against and one abstention. MA