applied philosophy, deep democracy, sustainability / by A.R.Teleb
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the MB and NSF (National Salvation Front),
Below is a way forward and perhaps an opportunity for Egypt to become a model for new democracy not just for the Middle East but for the entire world. It would create a government more representative of the people and more respectful of minorities, create a level-playing field for political parties, promote an independent Judiciary, provide a meaningful opportunity for every citizen to participate in government, and provide a meaningful check on Executive authority. It may be bold, but after over two years of continual protests, the Egyptian people have demonstrated that they are not willing to be governed, they are ready to govern themselves.
Lower House: Majlis-a-Sha3b (Deliberative Body)
Starting from a list of adult nominees from each province, open to all without distinction, members are selected by lot, the number from each province determined by population, to total 200. Any apportionment method currently used in other countries can be used, as long as the method is rotated every second election, so that no advantage is permanently given to larger or smaller provinces. Members of the Majlis would have six-month non-renewable terms, but a member previously drawn could be renominated after a two year absence. Pay would be 1.5 times her/his current six-month salary if employed, or the average member’s pay from the previous Majlis if the new member was unemployed/domestically employed. Each member will be given, in addition, a stipend covering average Cairo rent for her/his 6 month term and provided with a temporary office.
Lobbying: PROHIBITED. Any person attempting to contact another selected for Majlis-a-Sha3b between the time that person is selected and the end of his/her 6-month term of service shall be prosecuted for voter fraud and punished accordingly, except persons who were near relatives or friends of said member at the time of selection.
Experts: Any 20 members can call an expert witness (to be paid by the State) before the House. Such testimony will be publicly broadcast by live-television feed and limited to two hours. The number of such outside witnesses will be limited to 6 per measure before the floor.
Upper House: Majlis-a-Shura (Legislative Body)
Starting from a list submitted by national political parties (with a minimum of 1000 members), the Lower House will select 100 members to the Upper House to 4-year terms. Each Majlis-a-Sha3b member would select her/his top 100 candidates with an option to group up to 10 votes at a time, choosing fewer candidates but giving each more of her/his votes. Parties may submit the same lists, four years later, but new members of Majlis-a-Sha3b would choose the 100 any way they please. Salaries would be set equal to the other House.
Lobbying: ANYONE, including children over the age of 12, may lobby a member of the Shura on a particular day by registering with the Shura Office (no longer than 36 hours prior to the day she/he wishes to meet the member). Proper (public) registration will include, name, address, employer, and nature of her/his business with the member. The morning of the desired visit, a random sample of those wishing to lobby the Shura will be selected for an hour-long interview in the Shura Office, the number chosen so that no single Member has to spend more than 3 hours on any one day with lobbyists. A person selected to meet with a Shura member would have to wait a month before attempting to contact any Shura member again. Any person otherwise attempting to contact a member of Majlis-a-Shura shall be guilty of voter fraud, except where that attempted contact is through the PUBLICLY READABLE Twitter feed of that Shura seat.
No member of either House shall attempt to contact a member of the other House, except through an on-line, publicly readable, bill-reconciliation forum.
The President would be elected by national popular vote, using “rank choice” (instant-runoff-voting), in a single round election to a 5-year once-renewable term. The President would be free to appoint only top-level ministers, cabinet members, and heads of the branches of the Armed Forces. These nominations will be subject to confirmation by simple majority of both Houses. There will be no qualification for the office except attaining the age of majority and not having served more than one previous term as President. No judicial review of qualification shall be granted.
Judiciary: Lower Courts, Majlis-a-Dawla, Supreme Constitutional Court
Junior judges (to lower courts) would be selected by lot, from among nominees of practicing lawyers, to two-year terms. Judges of the Majlis a-Dawla and Supreme Constitutional Courts would be selected by lot from among willing senior lawyers (15+ years of practice) and from among lower-court judges, for six-year terms. For the upper Courts only, preference could be given (using lottery weights) to years of experience. A judge’s pay would again be 1.5 times her/his average salary of the previous year. A judge could be removed from office before the end of his/her term only by impeachment before both Houses. Civil and Criminal juries would be an option to litigants except in minor cases and infractions.
Anti-corruption measure: Any two members of the Lower or Upper House can bring an action before a district court for improper outside influence, or corrupt practice, punishable by criminal sanction and civil restitution. Both sides will have publicly-funded attorneys to represent them in court. If the accusation is deemed improper, it shall be made known and the Member’s House may choose to impeach or prosecute the accuser.
Taking the current Constitution and the government structure here outlined as starting points, a new Constitution would be drafted by Majlis-A-Sha3b by a 3/4 majority within 6 months, using OPTIONAL input from a PUBLICLY READABLE Constitutional Committee Twitter and Facebook accounts (or the equivalent), then seconded by a simple majority of Majlis-a-Shura. Ratification by popular referendum at 60% majority, six-month after passage would make it permanent, and amendable only by the same procedure no less than 5 years later.
The above has the following advantages:
1) proportional representation of all groups in society
if the number of seats is sufficiently large and people freely nominate themselves or others interested in deliberating in Cairo for six months
2) includes existing political parties
but holds them accountable to to the “citizens’ jury” of the Lower House
3) does not allow any one faction or sect to dominate government
4) better representation to women, Copts, and other minorities
5) an independent judiciary
6) a meaningful check on executive power
through Legislative confirmation of important positions in the Executive and Armed Forces
7) moves quickly towards a new Constitution
representative of all segments of the population
8) provides every citizen with a chance at having her/his voice heard
not just at election time but through direct participation in government
9) nurtures an identification between government and governed
that would foster long-term government stability and efficiency
10) save an enormous amount of resources on unnecessary and polemic elections
This is my humble contribution to the Revolution, though I wish I could do much more. Egypt “Mother of the World” deserves better than to copy European republics (many on the verge of collapse right now); after enduring years of oppression and shedding so much of her blood in the course of the Revolution, she deserves an authentic democracy and balanced government–one that will let her take her place at the front of the New Near East and beyond.
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