Egypt’s constitutional amendments panel says voters to cast their ballots by IDs under judicial supervision

Constitutional amendments to take place in April and June for parliament, August for presidency

Military council pledges international observing over elections

Major countries say ready to boost Egypt’s economy

Legal experts had unveiled proposed changes to Egypt's constitution upon the request of the military council which has been governing the country since mass protests ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The proposed amendments will be put up for public debate through the media, army officers have said, before a referendum to approve them to be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections. Egypt's constitution was suspended after the military council took power.

Some opposition figures and jurists say the entire document must be rewritten from scratch.

Here are details of some relevant articles from the constitution and the amendments:

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES (ARTICLE 76)

Under this article only a handful of candidates could stand in presidential elections that were due in September -- one from Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) and others from small recognized parties with little weight. In theory, independents could also stand but would need endorsements from 250 elected officials, including 65 members of the lower house. Parliament is now dissolved.

Under the proposed draft, presidential candidates must either have: the support of 30 members of parliament; or the backing of 30,000 eligible voters across about half of the country's governorates; or be nominated by a registered political party with at least one member elected to either the upper or lower house of parliament.

TERM LIMITS FOR THE PRESIDENT (ARTICLE 77)

The suspended constitution allowed the president to seek re-election indefinitely. Mubarak was in his fifth six-year term.

The opposition wanted to limit the president to two terms in office, as in many democratic countries.

The draft proposed a curb on the length of the president's term to four years and imposed a two-term limit on a leader.

THE CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS (ARTICLE 88)

Under the current article, an appointed election committee that includes judges and public figures supervises the election.

The opposition had wanted constitutional changes to deter election rigging, a practice widespread for decades. The most important step would be to reinstate the principle of judicial supervision, eliminated from the constitution in 2007 (Article 88).

The change restored full judicial supervision.

COURT RULINGS ON RIGGED VOTES (ARTICLE 93)

The article says that only parliament can rule on the eligibility of people to service in the assembly. The NDP majority has used this to ignore court rulings invalidating the election of some parliamentarians.

The change gives the supreme constitutional court the right to rule on the eligibility of people to become parliament members.

APPOINTMENT OF VICE PRESIDENT (ARTICLE 139)

Under the current article, the president of the republic may appoint one or more vice-presidents, define their jurisdiction and relieve them of their posts. The rules relating to the calling to account of the president of the republic shall be applicable to the vice-presidents.

The drafted amendments say the president must appoint a vice president within 60 days from taking office. In the situation that the post of vice presidency is empty, the president is obliged to appoint another deputy immediately.

EMERGENCY LAWS (ARTICLE 148)

Under the current constitution, the president can call a state of emergency but it has to be approved by the parliament.

The change says the president must present the announcement of a state of emergency to parliament within seven days. It must then be approved by a majority. It says the state of emergency should not last for more than six months, after which it cannot be extended without the approval of the people through a referendum.

PRESIDENT'S USE OF MILITARY JUSTICE (ARTICLE 179)

This article allows the president to transfer any case concerning "terror" to any judicial body, which gives him the right to use military courts. The government has long used military courts in cases they said concerned national security and Islamist violence where verdicts are swifter.

A decades-old state of emergency, which the army-led administration has pledged to end, also allows for trying civilians in military courts.

The draft proposes the cancellation of the article.

AMENDING THE CONSTITUTION (ARTICLE 189)

The rules say the president can ask parliament to approve a constitutional amendment or parliament can propose its own amendments. But all amendments must be approved in a referendum.

The proposed change adds that the president has the right to request a new constitution after cabinet approval, but also gives the same right to parliament if half the members of the lower and upper chambers request it. In both cases, the new constitution must be approved in a referendum.

The army in Egypt has passed a draft of constitutional amendments to be submitted to a national referendum.

Under the proposed changes, the president would only be allowed to serve two four-year terms, instead of unlimited six-year periods.

Deposed President Hosni Mubarak was serving his fifth six-year term when he was toppled by a mass uprising earlier this month.

The amendments would also reinstate judicial oversight of elections.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that now controls Egypt asked a panel of experts to suggest constitutional amendments that produce democratic reforms.

It has promised to put them to a national referendum ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections to be held within six months.

The changes are long-standing demands of the Egyptian opposition, some of whom have also wanted to limit presidential powers.

But the committee that drafted the changes said it had decided to postpone that issue until after the elections.

A future president would also be obliged to appoint a deputy, something Mubarak avoided until the last days of his rule.

Other changes would make it easier for individuals to qualify to run as a presidential candidate.

Elections would be subject to judicial supervision and it would harder for any leader to maintain the state of emergency.

Earlier, the Supreme Council apologized after military police surrounded a crowd of protesters overnight, beating them with batons and using Tasers to drive them out of Tahrir Square in central Cairo.

The demonstrators had been calling for a faster pace of reform and the replacement of the interim government of Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq.

Even after a cabinet reshuffle, several Mubarak-era ministers remain, including the key portfolios of defense, interior, foreign affairs, and justice.

Mubarak resigned on 11 February, forced out by 18 days of street protests.

There are concerns in Egypt that the country’s post-revolution constitution will fail to fully represent women.

In the weeks leading up to the downfall of authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak, women played their role in the push for democracy and were a visible presence in the crowds at Tahrir Square. It’s estimated that women made up between 20 percent and 50 percent of protesters. A lack of any sort of meaningful political representation under Mubarak gave them as much as, if not more reason to demand change than their male counterparts.

Yet many Egyptian women fear that despite their part in deposing Mubarak, they will be denied their just rewards in the post-Mubarak Egypt.

When the military took full control of the country last month, it appointed Tariq al-Bishry to form a committee that would change the constitution to make it comply with what the protesters had been risking their lives to demand. That committee has eight members, most of them politicians and judges, all of them men.

It is perhaps then not a great surprise that women’s groups are wary that the all-male committee may deprive them of their full rights in the new democratic process.

The Egyptian Coalition for Civic Education and Women’s Participation has reviewed the proposed amendments to the constitution and identified points of concern. For example, Article 75 guarantees that “Egypt’s president is born to two Egyptian parents and cannot be married to a non-Egyptian woman. Neither he nor his parents shall have another nationality except the Egyptian one. He shall practice his own civil and political rights.”

The fact that the president cannot be married to a non-Egyptian woman suggests that the president must be a man. As does the phrase “He shall practice…”

The interim military leadership has set a date of March 19 for a referendum on constitutional changes ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections in June and August respectively.

Egypt’s women have little time left to make sure the change they worked so hard to make possible becomes a reality.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit called on the international community to offer support for the economy, saying it “has been greatly affected by the political crisis that has rocked the country.”

The protests that culminated in the Feb. 11 ouster of the former president, Hosni Mubarak, have led businesses to shut down, scared off tourists and pushed up Egypt’s borrowing costs. The Mubarak-appointed government, now running the country under military oversight pending elections, is forecasting slower growth. It has promised a stimulus plan to address the economic complaints of the demonstrators, such as high unemployment.

Egypt’s finance minister, Samir Radwan, said the country’s budget deficit will widen to about 8.4 percent -- less than some analysts forecast -- as spending increases and economic growth slows after Mubarak’s fall. The Institute of International Finance in Washington predicts the budget gap will be 9.5 percent of gross domestic product, rather than the 7.9 percent previously forecast by the government.

The turmoil has cost the nation about $1.5 billion of tourism revenue, according to Central Bank Governor Farouk El- Oqdah. It has also forced companies to close and sent the currency skidding to a six-year low. Before Mubarak’s resignation, the benchmark EGX30 Index tumbled 16 percent in one week. The bourse has been closed since Jan. 27.

Abul-Gheit said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Abdulaziz bin Faisal al-Saud were among the officials who have called him to discuss support and developments in the country, according to a statement posted on the ministry’s website.

Clinton also spoke by telephone with Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, the State Department said.

The Institute of International Finance cut its forecast for Egyptian economic growth in this fiscal year to 1.5 percent from 6.1 percent, it said Feb. 4. The North African country’s economy lost $310 million a day during the unrest, according to Radwan.

Aid “should be priority No. 1 now,” Sherif El-Halwagy, Cairo-based director of public investments at Ace & Co. investment group, said in a telephone interview. “This democracy, in its infancy, needs to be stabilized and one way to do that is through economic support.”

Ace, based in Geneva, is a closely held investment group specializing in structuring public and private investments and in participating in them.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces formed a committee to amend the constitution and gave it 10 days to submit its proposed amendments, according to state television.

The committee is headed by former Judge Tariq el-Bishry.

“We are optimistic about this committee,” Mohamed Mursi, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, said in a telephone interview.

The Muslim Brotherhood will seek to form a party “at the nearest possible opportunity,” Mursi said. Sobhi Saleh, a member of the Brotherhood and a former parliamentarian, is a member of the committee, Mursi said.

Several members of the military Supreme Council met with the heads of Egyptian newspapers and magazines and “stressed the legitimacy of the demands of the protesters,” the state-run Middle East News Agency said. Members emphasized the need for police to return to the streets, MENA said.