Constitutional Amendments Invoke Controversy [Archives:2000/35/Front Page]

August 28 2000

The parliament voted in approval Wednesday the principle of constitutional amendments, while some ruling party and opposition MPs expressed reservations.
The president had earlier proposed the amendment of some constitutional articles pertaining to extending parliament term, the presidents right to dissolve the parliament without holding a referendum; to strip it of the right to instruct, restricting its role to make recommendations and setting up a 111-member Shoura Council. Members of the Shoura Council will have the right to vote on strategic and important decisions together with the parliament.
Some MPs expressed their disapproval of the way Speaker of the Parliament sheikh Abdullah bin Hussain al-Ahmar had dealt with the issue, indicating that he had not given them chance to express their views. They criticized the Parliament Presidium for not announcing the number of attendants, and of those who voted in favor of the amendments and the reserved members.
Parliament Speaker announced that the members who expressed reservations did not exceed 7 , Parliament Secretariat said the number was 17. Some MPs confirmed in press statements that the number exceeded 50 along with 100 absent members not taken down in the session records.
Other MPs expressed their objection to the principle of constitutional amendments, as being backing down from democratic course and chaining it, said Saad al-Din Taleb, MP.
He added that he had objected to the wrong voting procedures adopted in presenting these amendments. He said Article No 156 of the constitution gives the President of the Republic along with two thirds of MPs to propose amending one or more articles of the constitution, while the Presidents memorandum requested amendment, changing and addition, which is unconstitutional.
Said Doman, MP, Islah Party, has stressed his bloc is split between those in favor and opponents. However, he said that almost all the MPs were objecting to some articles such as dissolving the parliament without holding public referendum and denying the Parliament of its authority to direct the government.
Yahya Mansor Abo Usbaa, Socialist MP, one of prominent opponents strongly criticized the amendment of certain articles especially those proposed giving legislative rights to the Shoura appointed members, equal to those of the MPs as well as the article authorizing the president of the republic dissolving the parliament without a need for referendum.
Dr. Abdulkudoos al-Medwahi, Political Office Secretary, Peoples Nasserite Unionist Party, expressed the partys rejection of these amendments which were abruptly presented and were allotted very short time to be endorsed.
Parties within the Coordination Council for Opposition exchanged charges of acting in collusion with the government to let these constitutional amendments go. Worth mentioning is that the Supreme Coordination Council for Opposition Parties held an extraordinary meeting last Wednesday to discuss those amendments.