Middle East

Q&A: Egypt's new constitutional declaration

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Media captionThe BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo explains the implications of the military's move

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) has issued a supplementary constitutional declaration limiting the president's powers and granting itself greater prerogatives.

Under the 17 June declaration, which preceded the results of the presidential run-off, the Scaf has restored to itself legislative powers in the light of the dissolution of parliament and has complete control over all army affairs.

The Scaf will also play a significant role in the constituent assembly that will draft the country's new constitution.

The new president will be able to form and fire a government, ratify and reject laws, and declare war but only after the approval of the Scaf.

Why did the Scaf issue this latest constitutional declaration?

Under the constitutional declaration of March 2011, parliament was supposed to form a 100-member committee to draft a new constitution. But the process was unsuccessful after Islamist and liberal forces within parliament failed to reach agreement.

This resulted in the absence of a constitution to define the powers of the incoming president. Also, on 14 June the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled as unconstitutional the law on parliamentary elections, which resulted in the dissolution of parliament.

As the presidential election was going ahead, the Scaf had to issue this supplementary declaration to clarify the president's powers, the situation of the legislative authority and the constituent assembly, and the position of the army.

Also, the new president was supposed to be sworn in by parliament, but in its absence, the Scaf had to decide where this will take place. According to the new provisions, the next president will be sworn in before the General Assembly of the Supreme Constitutional Court.

What powers has the Scaf retained?

In the light of the dissolution of parliament, the Scaf has restored to itself legislative powers. The Scaf also has complete control over all army affairs. This includes the budget, the appointment of commanders and the extension of their service.

"Until a new constitution is enacted, the head of the Scaf has all powers - laid down in the laws and statutes - of the general commander of the armed forces, the minister of defence."

What about its role in the formation of the constituent assembly?

Under the declaration, if, for some reason, the constituent assembly "failed to complete its work", the Scaf will form "within a week", a new constituent assembly that represents "the segments of society" to draft a new constitution within three months from the date of its formation.

The draft constitution will be voted on in a public referendum within 15 days from the date of its preparation.

Will the Scaf have a role in the content of the new constitution?

Yes. According to the new provisions, if the president of the republic, the head of the Scaf, the prime minister, the Supreme Council of the Judicial Authorities, or one-fifth of the members of the constitution assembly believe that the new constitution includes wording that contradicts the "goals of the revolution and its basic principles" or "the principles mentioned in previous Egyptian constitutions", any of them has the right to ask the constituent assembly to reconsider the text within 15 days at most.

If the constituent assembly insists, the case will be referred to the Supreme Constitutional Court which will make a final decision that shall be "binding on all".

What about the parliamentary elections?

Procedures relating to the legislative polls shall start within a month from the date of the approval of a new constitution.

What powers does the president have?

The president can form and fire a government and ratify and reject laws. The president can declare war, but only after the approval of the Scaf. In the case of unrest inside the country, the president can ask the armed forces to maintain peace and protect state institutions, but also only after the approval of the Scaf.

Will this situation change?

Yes, because once a parliament is elected, the Scaf will have to hand the legislative power back to it. But as for the army's role and power in the future, this will rely on the content of the new constitution that will be drafted.

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