Egyptian Constitutional Reform: Presidential Eligibility Clause Only a Birther Could Love

by Peter Spiro

This from Gianluca Parolin in EUI’s excellent EU Democracy Observatory on Citizenship on proposed changes to Egypt’s constitution regarding presidential eligibility:

The current text (albeit suspended) requires the candidate to be an Egyptian citizen born of Egyptian parents.  The proposed text further requires the candidate and his (sic!) parents never to have acquired a foreign citizenship (thereby excluding also those who have renounced a previously acquired foreign citizenship), and not to be married to an non-Egyptian (woman — feminine in the text!).

I guess Obama is ineligible to succeed Mubarak.

In addition to being a little silly, entrenching this kind of requirement as a constitutional matter just raises the stakes for inevitable future disputes.  Several countries are grappling with dual nationality barriers to elective office that they probably wish they’d never adopted (Jamaica, Australia, and Ghana, among others).  Voters should be able to make up their own minds about whether an additional citizenship poses a real problem of loyalty.  Conflict of interest is a better way of thinking about the problem, such as one exists.

http://opiniojuris.org/2011/03/14/egyptian-constituional-reform-presidential-eligibility-clause-only-a-birther-could-love/

10 Responses

  1. There have been good discussions of the proposed amendments to the Egytpian constitution at the Comparative Constitutions blog and there was a helpful roundtable discussion at Jadaliyya as well. See also Ellis Goldberg at his blog, nisralnasr, and Nathan Brown and Michele Dunne at Carnegie Endowment. Tamir Moustafa is one of the foremost analysts of the existing constitution and he’s been writing about the proposed amendments for some time now. Today the journalist Jonathan Wright posted some things as well at his blog (under that name). He notes an Arabist blog poll citing a majority of Egyptians at present opposed to the amendments. Ursula Lindsey wrote at the Arabist the other day:

    “The movement against the constitutional amendment
    s. Or at least heating up. A lot of respected figures in the country — judges, activists, politicians, Amr Moussa and ElBaradei — have spoken out against the rushed, half-assed constitutional reform on which Egyptians are expected to vote in one week (which, among other things, does not diminish the powers of the presidency and discriminates against women and Egyptians who have a foreign passport, wife, or grandparent). Instead, they are calling for the creation of a constitutional assembly that genuinely represents all Egyptians to draft the new constitution Egypt deserves.” [link removed so as not to hold up posting]

  2. One candidate here in Peru is being criticized for having dual US-Peru nationality and there’s been some talks on amending the Constitution to forbid candidates with 2 nationalities. I’m against it, so could you share a bit more info on the Jamaica, Australia, and Liberia cases you mentioned? Thanks!

  3. AGD, Some links added!

  4. Thanks!

    This is the Peruvian case I mentioned just in case: http://www.livinginperu.com/news-14008-2011-elections-jne-declares-impeachments-against-ppk-unfounded

    (It’s not that recent but it was the only link I found in English about the controversy)

  5. AGD, who is it? following the presidential campaign a little but I hadn’t heard of that one. Kuczynski?

  6. and to Peter Spiro, I understand the last line of your post as suggesting to substitute “loyalty” for “conflict of interest(s)”, right? if so, why do you think that “loyalty” is not adequate anymore in this context and “conflict of interest(s)” is a better way of thinking about the problem? I understand that multiple citizenship should not be equated with “polygamy” anymore, but does that really mean that the concept of loyalty is kind of outdated? the phrase “conflict of interests” seems to be a little less harsh or emotional than “loyalty”, which evokes stronger feelings, but in the end describes fairly the same thing. in other words: lawyers talk about conflict of interests, normal people about loyalty, the problem is the same.
    best

    Chris

  7. Chris, the candidate is indeed Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, “PPK” for short (http://www.ppk.pe/). He’s been going up on polls recently, but he’s still fifth with 10% (the first runner-up has 26% and the second 19% so its still possible to get to the second round).

    Anyway, our Constitution (http://www.tc.gob.pe/legconperu/constitucion.html) says the Presidency is open to any Peruvian-born individual, and our law states that nationality is only lost by means of an express renunciation before Peruvian authorities (http://www.digemin.gob.pe/docs/docsnuevos/Doc/normlegalvigente/Reglamento%20Ley%20Nacionalidad.pdf) so he is able to run despite his dual-nationality. But people have trouble reconciling the “I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign (…) state” part of the US oath of allegiance and many candidates are calling for an amendment.

    Electoral authorities have dismissed all claims against him (http://www.scribd.com/doc/48000162/JNE-tacha-PPK-infundada) but the electoral tribunal did call for the need to reform the Constitution/Law.

    Hope this was useful!

  8. AGD, FWIW, the renunciation element of the US naturalization oath is a complete anachronism — never enforced.  The only reason it’s still there is that it would be politically impossible to agree on replacement language.

    Chris, I agree that “loyalty” and “conflict of interest” get at the same thing, but I think the latter turns the volume down in a consequential way, normalizing the possibility of dual citizen officeholders, not ruling it out categorically.  “Loyalty” carries too much baggage.

  9. Thanks again! I’ll try to spread the word about that!

  10. I’ve posted on other elements of the constitutional reform package over at Prawfs.  Excited to see and discuss today’s results.

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