Egypt to call March referendum this week: lawyer


Egypt’s ruling military council plans to hold a snap referendum next month on constitutional amendments, says a lawywer who helped draft them.

Sobhi Saleh, a member of the drafting committee which unveiled proposed constitutional amendements on Saturday, told Reuters the referendum would be formally announced this week and people would vote on the new basic law before the end of March.

The amendments include changes that will open up competition for the presidency, limit the time a leader can stay in the post and ensure judicial oversight of elections, Reuters reports.

Elections to both the upper and lower houses of parliament would follow the referendum, Saleh said, without saying when those elections would take place. Presidential elections would then happen after the legislative elections, he added.

The military council to which president Hosni Mubarak handed power when he stepped down on February 11 has dissolved both parliamentary chambers and has suspended the constitution.

Saleh, a member of the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood and one of 10 members of the judicial committee appointed by the military, said generals would continue to exercise presidential powers until a new head of state is elected.
“The council hands power to the people in a gradual process,” he said. The military council has said it hopes to hold the elections within six months.

Mubarak was serving his fifth six-year term when he was toppled, forced from office by a mass uprising driven in large part by demands for reform to put an end to the one-man rule that has defined Egyptian government for decades.

The amendments proposed by the judicial committee reduce the presidential term to four years and say no leader can serve more than two consecutive terms.