Just after Mubarak’s resignation on 11 Feb 2011, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) assumed power and declared the suspension of the 1971 Constitution. A few days later, the SCAF appointed a “technical” committee to proceed with the amendments that Mubarak had promised in a televised speech the night before resigning. The committee, headed by the retired judge Tariq al-Bishri, included senior jurists as well as controversial figures associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
At the top of the list of the provisions to amend were the requirements to run for President (art. 75) and the procedures to put one’s name on the presidential ballot (art. 76). Mubarak had promised amending these articles in a last bid to quell the protests by doing away with the restrictions that the regime had previously introduced in the constitutional reform of 2007 with a cumbersome procedure that secured that almost only candidates with the support of the ruling party could run for president.
Surprisingly, the amendments committee appointed after Mubarak’s resignation toughened the requirements of art. 75 setting high citizenship requirements for the candidate to the presidency. The current text (albeit suspended) requires the candidate to be an Egyptian citizen born of Egyptian parents. The proposed text further requires the candidate and his (sic!) parents never to have acquired a foreign citizenship (thereby excluding also those who have renounced a previously acquired foreign citizenship), and not to be married to an non-Egyptian (woman -- feminine in the text!). Ever since the announcement of the text, media have tried to identify the high-profile figures targeted by such an amendment (including Zuweil, el-Baradei, Ghuneim,..), whereas the committee has tried to dismiss criticisms by drawing analogies with other positions to which the toughened requirements apply in Egyptian law (for instance, in the diplomatic body). The gendering of the article has also been censured.
Widespread criticism was also directed towards almost all the other amendments proposed by the committee, and the accelerated schedule of the referendum on such amendments is currently stirring much political debate. The date is currently set to 19 March 2011.
Before the announcement of the actual text of the proposed amendments, expectations ran high for external voting rights for Egyptian citizens residing abroad. By virtue of the open-end clause in the mandate, the committee could have proposed amendments also to other constitutional provisions or any other piece of legislation connected to the amendments. The committee has however chosen not to.