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Egypt: New Constitutional Amendments Proposed

(Feb. 13, 2019) On February 5, 2019, the General Committee of the Egyptian Parliament approved a petition signed by 120 members of the House of the Representatives to amend some articles of the Egyptian Constitution of 2014 and add some new ones. (Nour Ali, General Committee of Parliament Approves Proposed Constitutional Amendments by Two-Thirds Majority, AL-YOUM AL-SAABE‘ (Feb. 5, 2019) (in Arabic).) Most prominent among the amendments are provisions to extend the presidential term of office. Egypt’s Parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee has now taken up the matter for debate, which will be followed by a final vote on February 17 by the entire Parliament. Approval is likely as the Parliament is largely made up of supporters of current president, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. If Parliament approves the proposed amendments, they will be put to a national referendum. (Gamal Essam El-Din, Ahram Online’s Guide to Egypt’s Newly Proposed Constitutional Amendments, AL-AHRAM (Feb. 4, 2019); Egypt Opposition Rejects Move to Extend Al-Sisi’s Rule, NEWS24 (Feb. 6, 2019).)

Amended Constitutional Provisions

Among the 2014 constitutional provisions to be amended are articles 102, 140, 185, 189, and 204. The proposed changes to these articles are as follows:

  • Amended article 102 would require that at least one quarter of the seats in the Parliament be allocated to women and reduce the number of the seats in the House of Representatives from 596 to 450.
  • Amended article 140 would increase the term of the presidency from four years to six years and remove the limitation on the president’s being reelected only once, replacing it with the limitation that the president “may not hold the presidency for more than two consecutive terms.”
  • Article 185, under the new amendments, would grant the president the authority to appoint all chief justices of Egyptian judicial bodies, and article 189 would authorize the president to appoint Egypt’s public prosecutor.
  • Article 204 would be amended to enable military-court trials for civilians even when they have not committed a direct assault against a military building or military personnel. (Proposed Constitutional Amendments: Nine New Provisions and Twelve Amended, MADA MASR (Feb. 4, 2019) (in Arabic); CONSTITUTION OF THE ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT, 2014, Constitute Project website.)

Proposed New Constitutional Provision

Among the new articles that the members of the House proposed is a provision establishing a new chamber of Parliament called “the Senate.” The Senate would have the same legislative powers as the House of Representatives, including the power to propose draft laws, approve multinational and bilateral agreements, pass draft laws referred to it from the president, and approve the general budget. The Senate would consist of 250 members, two-thirds of whom would be elected and one-third of whom would be appointed by the president, with their terms of office lasting for five years. (Id.)

Endorsement of the Constitutional Amendments

Members of Parliament who have endorsed the amendments, including Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, have declared that the proposed amendments would play a vital role in increasing women’s representation in Parliament and, through the new Senate, broaden participation in political and parliamentary life. (Ahram Online’s Guide to Egypt’s Newly Proposed Constitutional Amendments, supra.)

Reaction to the Proposed Amendments

Eight Egyptian human rights organizations have announced their rejection of the proposed amendments because they would allow President Sisi to run for two more six-year terms after his second four-year term expires in 2022, enabling him to remain in office until 2034. These organizations issued a statement calling on Sisi to leave office as soon as his second term ends in June 2022. (Eight Egyptian Human Rights Groups Reject Calls to Amend the Constitution, MIDDLE EAST MONITOR (Jan. 26, 2019) Egypt’s Sisi Could Potentially Be in Power Until 2034, TRTWORLD (Feb. 4, 2019).)