Egypt’s new female MPs oppose constitutional amendment ‘to create a new dictator’

Published November 11th, 2015 - 03:00 GMT

A number of Egypt's newly elected female MPs have said that they ‎oppose amending the constitution to create a “new ‎dictator,” in response to some MPs vowing to amend article 140 of the new constitution to allow the president’s term to extend to more than four years.

 Out of 273 candidates who won seats in the first stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections, as many as 270 have arrived at the headquarters of the Egyptian lower house of parliament – the House of Representatives – and obtained their parliamentary membership cards. Out of these, as many as 34 women won seats – the highest number in Egypt's 150-year parliamentary life.

Sarah Othman, a newly elected female MP representing the Upper Egypt governorate of Al-Minya, told parliamentary reporters that she is completely against amending the new constitution.

"I approve the amendment of some articles of this constitution (passed in 2014) to create some balance between the president and parliament," said Othman, "but at the same time I am against using this excuse to amend the constitution in general to create a new dictator."

Othman said the two constitutions under the two former regimes of Hosni Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood “turned Egypt's presidents into dictators.”

"Mubarak was a dictator who wanted to create a ruling dynasty, while Morsi (the former Islamist president) wanted to create a Muslim Brotherhood dynasty," said Othman.

Othman sharply criticised the performance of the current government of prime minister Sherif Ismail, urging new MPs to focus on "supervising the performance of this weak government rather than amending the new constitution."

Joining forces, Amal Zakria Qotb, a newly elected MP representing the Nile Delta governorate of Beheira, also criticised attempts aimed at amending the constitution for "dictatorial reasons." 

"The constitution is still one year old and, as a result, we have to give it some time to see whether it will serve the supreme interests of the country or not," said Qotb, who is also a leading official with the National Council for Women in Beheira governorate.

Qotb also opened fire on the government of prime minister Sherif Ismail. "I think all have followed with sorrow the poor performance of this government during the recent catastrophe of rainfalls in the two governorates of Alexandria and Beheira," said Qotb, urging MPs to focus on scrutinising the performance of this government or withdraw confidence from it.

Ghada Agami, a third newly elected female MP, told reporters that, although she was a member of Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi's election campaign in 2014, she is against any amendment of the new constitution at the moment. 

"As an Egyptian woman who lives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), I led the pro-Sisi campaign among Egyptians living there," said Agami.

But, Agami added, "the fact that I am a supporter of Al-Sisi does not mean that I am in favor of amending the constitution to give more powers to the president."

"This is by no means the right time to do this, not only because the constitution is still one year old, but because MPs have to focus on other vital issues such as implementing the constitution's articles on rights and freedoms and improving the daily living conditions of ordinary Egyptians."

Agami also agreed that the performance of Sherif Ismail as a prime minister is very poor. 

“I really regret that former prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab left office because he was a man with high capabilities," said Agami, who works with Emirates airline.

Elizabeth Abdel-Messih, a Coptic woman who won a seat in the Upper Egypt governorate of Assuit, also said "the most important priority for the coming parliament is to review the performance of the current government of prime minister Sherif Ismail."

Abdel-Messih said she does not think that President El-Sisi was exerting pressure on new MPs to change the constitution when he said last August that "the constitution was written with good intentions, but nations cannot be built on good intentions only." 

"He was simply trying to emphasise the necessity that powers granted to parliament should be exercised wisely and in cooperation with the president," said Abdel-Messih.

In addition to article 140, some new parliamentarians also said articles 161 and 147 must be amended to give the president absolute power to appoint or dismiss governments.


By Gamal Essam El-Din

© Copyright Al-Ahram Publishing House

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