The Egyptian parliament s constitutional and legislative affairs committee began on Tuesday deliberating on proposed amendments to the country s 2014 constitution.
The deliberations, led by parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, will continue on Wednesday.
"At the end of this two-day deliberation, a mini-committee will be formed to take charge of drawing up the final draft of the proposed amendments," said Abdel-Aal.
"I will chair this mini-committee, which will do its job with the aid of a report prepared by a sub-committee on the remarks and comments submitted to parliament, either in a written form or expressed verbally, during a number of national dialogue hearing sessions between 20 and 28 March."
Abdel-Aal said he hopes that the final deliberations will pave the way for the final discussion and vote on the amendments in the House next week.
"I hope that we will be able to make it clear to all the Egyptian people that the constitutional amendments primarily seek to achieve different objectives, and not just aim to amend Article 140 in terms increasing the presidential term," said Abdel-Aal, explaining that "the main goal of the amendments is to reinforce stability in Egypt, widen the scope of participation in political and parliamentary life, and create a more balanced relationship between the state and the judicial authority."
According to Abdel-Aal, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has by no means any connection with the proposed constitutional amendments.
"Let me stress in clear-cut terms that President El-Sisi has never been consulted at any time on these amendments, and that amendments only come upon an initiative from MPs," said Abdel-Aal.
The vote on the proposed amendments to Egypt s 2014 constitution is expected in parliament next week.
Bahaaeddin Abu Shoqa, the head of parliament s constitutional and legislative affairs, told Al-Ahram on Tuesday that the final vote on the constitutional amendments will be held on 16 April.
"We will discuss the amendments article by article, and then take a vote on all of them at one time," said Abu Shoqa, adding that "the amendments should gain the approval of a two-thirds majority of MPs in order to be passed and referred to the National Committee for Elections, which in turn will invite citizens to cast their votes in a public referendum."
"Upon hearing his/her name, each MP should use the microphone to say yes or no to the amendments," Abu Shoqa added.
"We have been keen throughout this period that all the debate on the amendments are held in a climate of transparency, openness, and integrity," said Abdel-Aal, adding that "the national dialogue held in this respect showed that the amendments failed to gain consensus, but this is natural and we respect diversity of opinion."
"The most important result of the two-week dialogue is that it forced me personally to change some of my convictions and opinions about the amendments, and led me to develop some of the thoughts on them, and this shows that the dialogue was genuine and influential, and I think that this will have its impact on the final draft of the constitutional amendments."
Abdel-Aal insisted that the guarantee stipulated by Article 226 of the constitution is not related to presidential terms.
"It is directly and exclusively related to the two-term limit, and this is a principle we observe and it is not a part of the amendments," said Abdel-Aal, adding that "we just want the presidential term to be increased from four to six years, but at the same time I can t draft a text that might stipulate that the current president can t be allowed to run again."
"This is against the principles adopted by the Supreme Constitutional Court," said Abdel-Aal, insisting that "the amendments do not serve a certain figure, but it also open the door for the incumbent president to run again in line with the constitution."
The debate saw leftist MPs Aboul-Maati Mostafa and Diaaeddin Dawoud attack the amendments.
Dawoud said the amendments violate Article 226, and that allocating a certain quota of seats to women in parliament goes against the principle of equality and helps divide society. Mostafa also said that the creation of a second house will be costly and violates the principle of separation of powers. He also criticised the amendment of Article 200, which tackles the role of the Armed Forces.
In response, Abdel-Aal said the guarantees stipulated by Article 226 were well-observed.
"The fact that the amendments aim to reinforce stability in terms of reinstating the post of the vice president, recreating a forceful second house by the name of the Senate , and keeping the two-term limit in place are all part of the guarantees which Article 226 cover."
Abdel-Aal argued that the proposed Senate cannot be granted full powers as this goes in violation of Egypt s political system.
"This can be achieved only if we write a new constitution," said Abdel-Aal, adding that "the amendments related to the role of the Armed Forces as the main guardian of the state and constitution institutions do not say anything new."
"The Armed Forces are not granted any roles, and the amendments only state that they continue exercising their existing roles," said Abdel-Aal.