An Eye on Egypt’s Amended Constitution: Committees and Bylaws

At the beginning of September, the fifty-member committee tasked with amending the 2012 constitution was announced with a presidential decree. The committee began its work on September 8, tackling the constitution that had been amended by a ten-person legal committee. The ten person committee, formed of six judges and four constitutional law professors, completed their work in the space of one month. The committee has announced that the draft will be ready to go to referendum by the end of November, while the first draft should be ready by October 14, after which the committee will review it and hold public debate sessions discussing its content. According to the roadmap set forth by the July 8 Presidential decree, they have two months to complete their work. 

Once their work is done, the ten member committee, which has the right to attend the fifty-member committee sessions but does not have the right to vote, will then be tasked with applying the amendments. Due to the vague wording of the July 8 declaration, it would appear that the legal committee does not actually have a final say over the amendments, and it is also not clear whether or not the amendments drafted by the fifty-member committee will be binding.

The bylaws of the committee state the following on the final draft:

Read the ten-member committee’s amended constitution in English or in Arabic.
You can also view the key highlights in English here and a breakdown of what has changed from the 2012 to the amended constitution here

Who is on the ten person committee?

Six Judges

Mohamed Eid Mahgoub
Secretary-General of the Supreme Judiciary Council 

Hassan al-Sayed Bassiouny
Head of the Cairo Appeals Court

Mohamed Khairy Taha
Supreme Constitutional Court Deputy Chairman

Mohamed Abdel Aziz Shenawy 
Supreme Constitutional Court Deputy Chairman

Essam al-Din Abdel Aziz 
State Council Deputy Chairman

Magdy al-Aagaty 
State Council Deputy Chairman

Four Law Professors

Fathy Fikry 
Professor Emeritus at the Cairo University Faculty of Law

Hamdi Ali Omar
Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Zagazig

Salah al-Din Fawzy 
Professor Emeritus at the Faculty of Law at Mansoura University 

Ali Abdel Aal
Professor at the Faculty of Law at Ain Shams University

Who is on the fifty person committee?

The committee was selected by the presidency according to certain criteria outlined by the July 8 Presidential Decree. Article 29 of the decree stated that the committee would represent different sectors in society: political parties, intellectuals, workers, professional syndicate members, national council members, union members, and public figures. Al Azhar, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the armed forces and police would also each have a representative in the committee. Each group was tasked with selecting its own members, while the president selected public figures.

The selection of the members was never opened to the public and included only two Islamists, five women, four Copts, and four ‘youth’ representatives on the committee, despite earlier statements saying at least ten women and ten youth would be included.

The full list of the fifty member committee can be viewed here. Below we highlight members elected to specific positions or sub-committees.

The final makeup of the committee can be seen in the diagram below, courtesy of Mina Fayek. It includes four youth members, seventeen representatives of unions and syndicates, four Christian representatives, ten public figures, five women, four Azhar representatives, four representatives of human rights groups and national councils, six representatives of the political sphere (two Islamists, two liberals, one leftist, and one nationalist), one army and one police representative. The exact breakdown can be seen here.

20130905 ConstitutionalCommittee

Head of the Constituent Assembly: Amr Moussa (Public Figure)
Amr Moussa ran against Sameh Ashour, the chairman of the lawyer’s syndicate and the head of the Arab Nasserist Party, and Moussa was selected as the head of the constituent assembly on September 8, he won 75 percent of the committee votes. Moussa is a former presidential candidate, served as Hosni Mubarak’s foreign minister from 1991 to 2001, after which he served as the Arab League’s secretary general until 2011. In the wake of the 2011 Egyptian uprising, he heads the newly formed Conference (Mo’tamar) Party and ran in the 2012 presidential elections in which he placed fifth, 11.13 percent of the votes in the first round.

Deputy Head of the Constituent Assembly: Magdy Yaacoub (Public Figure)
Magdi Yacoub, a renowned heart surgeon and founder of the Magdi Yacoub Heart Foundation, was chosen as one of three deputies for the head of the committee.

Deputy Head of the Constituent Assembly: Mona Zulfaqar (Human Rights)
Mona Zulfaqar was chosen as one of three deputies to the head of the committee. Zulfaqar, a lawyer, is also deputy head of the post-Morsi National Council for Human Rights and chairperson of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee. Legislation she has successfully campaigned for in Egypt includes the ‘Khula’ law, the ‘Equal Right to Divorce Law’ which grants a woman the right to seek a divorce from her husband. She is also a member of the Governance Sub-Committee.

Deputy Head of the Constituent Assembly: Kamal al-Helbawy (Islamist)
Kamal al-Helbawy was chosen as one of three deputies to the head of the committee. Helbawy’s appointment to the committee was a source of controversy. After twenty-three years in exile, Helbawy, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, returned to Egypt. He publicly resigned from the Brotherhood after the group’s decision to field Khairat al-Shater as a presidential candidate. The only Islamist party participating in the constituent assembly, the Nour Party, was very critical of Helbawy’s appointment, saying he should be considered an Islamist member of the committee.

Official spokesperson: Mohamed Salmawy (Writer)
Mohamed Salmawy was chosen as official spokesman for the committee. In April, Salmawy, a playwright, novelist and columnist, was elected head of Egypt’s Writers’ Union for the fourth year in a row. At the time he spoke of the need to promote the writer’s role in preserving Egyptian identity, which he said was being jeopardized. He is also general secretary of the General Union of Arab Writers, and was editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram’s French-language newspaper, Hebdo. From 2004 to 2005, he also served as an aide to the minister of information, while from 1988 to 1989, he served as  Undersecretary of State for Foreign Cultural Relations at the Ministry of Culture.

Rapporteur: Gaber Nassar (Public Figure)
Gaber Nassar is a law professor and head of Cairo University, where he has also headed the Human Rights Center. He is also a practicing lawyer in the court of appeals and high administrative courts. Most recently, he was involved in the controversy in which the cabinet granted university guards powers of arrest. Nassar reportedly cancelled the decision as a result of student demands. He is also a member of the Governance Sub-Committee.


On September 9, the constituent assembly determined its internal bylaws and selected its committees, with each committee electing their heads and deputy-heads. The sub-committees were given the right to appoint members who were not part of the original fifty-member committee.  Each committee will discuss articles in their respective chapters. Those suggested amendments will then be voted on by the general constitutional committee.

Governance Sub-Committee

This committee will discuss issues relating to the electoral system and governance system (presidential vs. parliamentary) etc.

Head: Amr al-Shobaky (Public Figure)
A former independent member of parliament, Amr al-Shobaky is also a political analyst and nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center. He was also a member of the previous constituent assembly that drafted the 2012 Constitution. At the time, he was accused of being a Brotherhood-sympathizer. In the wake of Morsi’s ouster, however, Shobaky questioned the Brotherhood’s claims of police excesses, saying that the group had reverted to its usual role of victim. In statements he made in 2012, he said that the constitution’s role is protect citizen rights, stressing that women, Copts and youth need to be better represented in parliament.

Deputy Head:  Mohamed Abdelaziz (Youth)
Mohamed Abdelaziz is one of the founding members of the Tamarod Movement. He is also a member of the Popular Current and is a Nasserist, and is a youth representative in the committee.

Prominent Members

Ahmed Eid (Youth)
Ahmed Eid, another of the youth representatives, is a founding member of the June 30 Front and was also a member in the Constitution Party

Al-Sayed al-Badawy (Political Spectrum – Liberal)
Head of the Wafd Party, Al-Sayed al-Badawy is also a businessman. He has been a leading member of the Wafd party since 1989, and was the party’s secretary general before being elected its head in 2010. Ahram Online published an in-depth profile of Badawy in 2011
In April 2013, a group of young Wafd members called for Badawy’s resignation as party leader, citing “the inconsistent policies and decisions of the party head and [the party head] not being committed to the party’s principles, which he runs in an individual way.”

Mohamed Samy (Political Spectrum – Nationalist)
Mohamed Samy is the head of the Nasserist Karama Party.

Ahmed al-Wakil (Unions and Syndicates)
Ahmed al-Wakil is Head of the Union of Commerce Chambers. He was among those critical of the government’s decision to increase the minimum wage. He said dialogue was necessary before implementing a minimum wage rate, adding that its not appropriate to place “additional burdens” on companies, particularly in light of the unemployment rate.

Maher Manaa Gad al-Haq (Alternate Member/Army)
Maher Manaa Gad al-Haq is the vice-president of the Supreme court of military appeals.

Ali Abdel Mawla (Ministry of Interior)
Ali Abdel Mawla is Assistant for Legal Affairs in the Ministry of Interior.

Gaber Nassar
See biography here

Mona Zulfaqar
See biography here

Rights and Freedoms Sub-Committee

This committee will discuss the articles in the Rights and Freedoms Chapter of the constitution.

Head: Hoda al-Sada (Public Figure)
Hoda al-Sada is a literature professor at Cairo University and chairs the Study of Contemporary Arab World at the University of Manchester. She is considered a liberal and feminist, and has a special interest in gender studies.

Deputy Head: Amr Salah (Youth)
Amr Salah is a founding member of the June 30 Front.

Communication Officer: Ahmed Khairy (Unions and Syndicates)
Head of the National Federation of Egypt’s Workers

Basic Components/Primary Fundamentals Sub-Committee

Head: Mohamed Abdel Salam (Azhar)
Mohamed Abdel Salam is the legal advisor to the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, and is a judge.

Deputy Head: Mervat Tallawy (National Councils and Human Rights)
Mervat Tallawy is the head of the National Council for Women and an outspoken feminist. She has worked with the UN, and served as Egypt’s ambassador to Austria and Japan. She was also assistant foreign minister from 1991 to 1993, and served as Minister for Insurance and Social Affairs from 1993 to 1997. She was also a founding member of the left liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party.

Prominent Members

Khaled Youssef (Public Figures)
Khaled Youssef is a prominent director and is also a member of the Nasserist Popular Current. He has been a vocal critic of both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Priest Safwat al-Bayadi (Evangelical Church)
Safwat al-Bayadi is the head of the protestant community in Egypt. He was a member of the 2012 Constituent Assembly, but along with other church representatives withdrew from the committee in November.

Bishop Antonius Aziz Mina (Catholic Church)
Bishop Antonious Aziz Mina is the bishop of Giza.

Egypt’s Mufti Shawky Allam (Azhar)
Shawky Allam is Egypt’s Grand Mufti. He is the first elected Grand Mufti in Egypt, selected in February 2013. Allam, a Sufi, is a scholar of jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University in the northern city of Tanta, and has no political affiliations.

Magdy Yacoub
See biography here

National Dialogue and Community Outreach Sub-Committee

This committee is responsible for receiving and reviewing suggestions from institutions, bodies and civil society organizations.

Head: Sameh Ashour
Sameh Ashour is head of the lawyer’s syndicate, head of the Nasserist Party, is one of the co-founders of the National Salvation Front, and also headed SCAF’s Advisory Council. Under Mubarak, he was critical of the ruling National Democratic Party, but also viewed the call for multi-candidate presidential elections in 2005, while commendable, were “premature.” In June 2012, before Morsi’s election, a number of lawyers launched an unsuccessful campaign to hold a vote of no confidence against Ashour because of his stance regarding SCAF’s constitutional declaration.

Deputy Head: Gebaly al-Maraghy (Unions and Syndicates)
Gebaly al-Maraghy is the representative for semi-governmental Egypt’s Trade Union Federation.

Constitution-Drafting Sub-Committee

This committee is tasked with with writing the final draft of the constitution, based on the proposals various commissions and committee members.

Head: Abdel Gelil Moustafa
Abdel Gelil Moustafa is a leading member of the liberal Constitution Party and one of the co-founders of the National Salvation Front, as well as the head of the National Association for Change. In the wake of the Maspero Massacre that left over twenty Copts dead during SCAF rule, Moustafa called on SCAF to form a new government, describing then-Prime Minister Essam Sharaf as weak. He also said that SCAF rule was reminiscent of Mubarak’s era.
The forty-nine alternate members chosen by interim president Adly Mansour were announced at the beginning of September, and the full list can be viewed here. The list includes prominent names including Mohamed Anwar Sadat, Nasser Amin, Ibrahim Eissa and Wahid Hamed.

Changes to the Committee

As of September 26, two members of the commitee have been replaced. The Salafi Nour Party representative Bassem al-Zarqa withdrew for health reasons and was replaced by another party member, Mohamed Ibrahim Mansour. Al- Zarqa’s substitute, Mohamed al Azhari, was also replaced by Salah Abdel Ma’abou.

The farmer representative was replaced after Mohamed Abdel Qader, the chairman of the Farmers Syndicate died in a road accident. He was replaced by Youssef Dagger. 

Committee Bylaws

Key highlights from the bylaws agreed upon by the fifty member committee can be seen below. The complete set of bylaws are available in English here.

  • Consensus (or 75 percent approval) is required for constitutional articles to be approved by the committee.
  • In the event of a lack of consensus, the committee will adjourn the debate for twenty-four hours. If there is still no consensus, a 75 percent majority will be required.
  • Sessions must be attended by an absolute majority.  
  • If a member cannot attend the session, they will be replaced with a secondary members who will also have voting rights.
  • All members are banned from giving statements to the press, with the exception of the official spokesperson (but they can interact with people/through social media with regard to their personal opinions).
  • Journalists can attend sub-committee sessions. (It is worth noting that the Rights and Freedoms subcommittee did not allow reporters to attend its first session.)

Next, we will take a look at the debates, amendments, changes within the committee, and proposed amendments by various groups and political movements, as well as controversies that have arisen since the committee began its work in early September.

Image: Photo: Johanna Loock