Egypt’s brief flirtation with semi-presidentialism is over. The army have taken power, suspended the Constitution, and declared that the President of the Constitutional Council has replaced President Morsi.
The Egyptian constitution was signed into law by President Morsi on 26 December 2012. So, it has lasted little more than 6 months.
Given Egypt’s difficult situation generally, should any specific provisions of the semi-presidential element of the Constitution be blamed for the collapse? Well, the Constitution did balance powers within the executive in some respects, but there were some blanket clauses that gave the president considerable power if the government was a willing partner and it was. Certainly, President Morsi was willing to exercise the powers that were at his disposal.
So, the collapse was almost certainly over-determined, but to the extent that the Constitution did provide some authority for an active president to govern actively, then it can probably be thrown into the mix.
Overall, though, it is difficult to see how any constitutional procedures relating to executive/legislative relations could have prevented a collapse in the end. The difficulties with governance lie elsewhere.
So, by my calculations there are now 51 countries with a semi-presidential constitution. Two have been lost this year, the Central African Republic being the other one. A full list is available here.
The constitution-making process in Egypt is advancing. Previously, only the rights and duties section of the document had been drafted. Now, though, the draft of the institutional section has been made public. It is available here.
The document creates a semi-presidential system. The president is directly elected (Art. 138). The government is responsible solely before the Council of Representatives (Art. 161) and the constitution makes it clear that if there is a vote of no-confidence in the PM or government, then the government has to resign (Art. 127). So, a premier-presidential form of semi-presidentialism is suggested.
Generally, the president has very few powers. There is the power to return a bill to parliament, but there are override procedures. There are some powers in foreign affairs, and the right to call a referendum. However, the PM is clearly the major actor.
At this stage, the document is merely a draft and I have no idea whether or not it is likely to be amended heavily.
I am just back from holiday, so proper posting will resume tomorrow. In the meantime, here is a link to a post from Matthew Shugart’s site where he provides details about Egypt’s new electoral system.
Technically, Egypt is no longer semi-presidential because the constitution was suspended following the military takeover earlier this year. However, I will continue to provide updates on the assumption that the constitution will be reactivated in the near future.
Unfortunately, the nearness of that future seems to be a little further away. The government has announced that parliamentary elections, which were scheduled for September, will now take place around “a month and a half” later. Given presidential elections were meant to be held in November, the likelihood is that they will be delayed too. Generally, the opposition has welcomed the delay, believing that quick elections will favour the established forces.
In addition, there has been a major government reshuffle. There are some details here.
Egypt held a referendum on Saturday. The referendum was held to approve (or not) the constitutional amendments that had been drawn up by the interim administration.
Daily News Egypt is reporting that the turnout was 41.19 per cent. The ‘yes’ vote was 77.2 per cent. Therefore, the amendments have been approved.
This vote, though still overwhelming, is somewhat reassuring in that there was a significant ‘no’ vote, implying freedom of choice.
The report states that, following the vote, “the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will set Military council will set a timeline for the peaceful transition of power.” Given the constitution will remain semi-presidential following the amendments, the question, for this blog at least, is when the constitution will be activated again? Currently, it remains suspended.
As reported previously, the Egyptian constitution is currently suspended. However, the ruling authorities have just announced that a constitutional referendum will be held on 19 March. The referendum relates to various constitutional changes that the authorities have proposed.
Assuming the referendum is passed and assuming the revised constitution comes into force, then Egypt will return to semi-presidentialism. This is because the constitutional amendments, while important in principle, do not seem to change the basic structure of the previous document.
I have not been able to identify an English version of the amendments. However, there are some summaries, including one here.
For the purposes of this blog, the major reforms are the one that makes it easier for more candidates to stand for the presidency, a two-term presidential limit, and the promise of a new constitution after the referendum.
This is unlikely to come as news to anyone, but in Egypt President Mubarak has handed power to the military, which has dissolved the legislature and suspended the constitution.
I date the introduction of semi-presidentialism in Egypt to the 2007 constitutional amendment that made the government, formally at least, responsible to the legislature. The suspension of the constitution means that Egypt is no longer semi-presidential.
It goes without saying that the situation in Egypt is very fluid. However, to the extent that this blog tries to be a place of record for all matters semi-presidential, then it should be reported that there is a new prime minister in Egypt.
In response to the protests, President Mubarak has appointed Ahmed Shafik as PM. He was previously the commander of the Egyptian Air Force and was the Minister for Civil Aviation from 2002. The previous PM, Ahmed Nazif, was appointed in 2004.
Interestingly, President Mubarak also appointed Omar Suleiman as Vice President. Previously, he was Minister without portfolio and had been the head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate since 1993. Prior to his appointment, there was no position of Vice President.
Both appointments seemed to be designed to signal that President Mubarak wants to keep the army on side.
The first round of elections to the lower house of the Egyptian parliament, the People’s Assembly, took place on 28 November. The second round took place on Sunday 5 December.
The Higher Elections Commission provides the following information about the People’s Assembly:
“The People’s Assembly is the (lower house) of Egypt’s bicameral legislature. … It is made up of 518 members, 508 of which are elected, at least half of which must be workers and farmers and 10 of which are appointed by the President of the Republic. Included in the 508 elected members are 64 seats reserved for women elected from 32 women-only districts.”
Egypt is not an electoral democracy and this election was marked by reports of violence and irregularities. The results are available in Arabic here.
Ahram is reporting that the ruling National Democratic Party has won 439 seats after the second ballot. The opposition Wafd party returned six deputies, the same as in the previous legislature. The Tagammu party won five seats, an increase of four. Four other opposition parties, Ghad, Geel (generation), El-Adalah (social justice), and El-Salam (social peace), won one seat each. Crucially, the report suggests that the Muslim Brotherhood also won only a single seat. In the last parliament it had 88 deputies, even though they were elected as independents. That said, officially they withdrew from the second ballot, citing irregularities and intimidation at the first ballot. The net result, though, is that there will be even less opposition representation in the new legislature.
On the basis of the definition used in this blog, Egypt now has a semi-presidential constitution. Following the 2007 constitutional amendment, Art. 76 states that “The President shall be elected by direct, public, secret ballot”, Art. 153 states that the government “shall consist of the Prime Minister, his deputies, the Ministers and their deputies”, while Art. 127 elaborates the way in which the People’s Assembly may pass a vote of no-confidence in the government that forces its collective resignation. Bear in mind that even autocracies have written constitutions. Therefore, identifying a country as semi-presidential does not imply that it must be a democracy or even a semi-democracy. Moreover, countries with semi-presidential constitutions can have strong, weak or balanced presidencies. Therefore, identifying a country as semi-presidential does not imply that the president has to be only moderately strong. Clearly, Egypt is not a functioning democracy and the president is very powerful. An article on the 2007 reforms is available here.
Anyhow, I report elections that take place in countries with semi-presidential constitutions. On 1 June elections were held to the Shura Council in Egypt. This body is, in effect, the upper chamber of the Egyptian legislature. As wikipedia notes, the Shura Council is composed of 264 members of which 176 members are directly elected and 88 are appointed by the president. This year 88 seats were up for election and 44 presidential appointments were due to be made.
I have no information about the electoral system. However, Jeune Afrique is reporting the following result:
National Democratic Party – 80 seats
National Progressive Unionist Party – 1 seat
Tomorrow Party – 1 seat
Arab Democratic Nasserist Party – 1 seat
Democratic Generation Party – 1 seat
Independents – 4 seats
Muslim Brotherhood – 0 seats
Overall, there is perhaps some evidence that there will be a slightly greater degree of pluralism in the Council than before. Obviously, though, the dominance of the ruling National Democratic Party has not, in effect, been altered.