The head of the Egyptian Union for Equal Rights, Naguib Gabriel, has called on the government to provide a quota for Copts in the upcoming parliamentary elections, saying that the current atmosphere in Egypt will not allow for Copts to gain adequate representation.
Gabriel said that the current formation of the Islamist-dominated government largely ignores Copts, which he says total almost a quarter of the country’s population, or 21 million people.
Gabriel said: “There are six million eligible voting Copts,” including overseas voters, adding that a quota in the new House of Representatives would do justice by them.
“We must be represented in the upcoming government.” Eligible Coptic voters represent ten per cent of the total eligible Egyptian population.
Gabriel said that a quota was necessary for the upcoming elections but should apply for one election only. He believes it is necessary in order for Copts to defend themselves through legislation and the new constitution.
He said: “If there is no quota, there will be no Copts in the new House of Representatives.”
There are several articles in the constitution which Gabriel says are bad for Copts. Article 10 of the constitution refers to family life being the basis for the country, founded on religion, morality and patriotism. While the government has repeatedly stressed that Copts have nothing to fear, article 219 of the constitution states that principles of Shari’a form its basis.
Gabriel argued that articles 10 and 219 will ultimately serve to marginalise the Coptic community as it allows for discrimination.
When asked what should be done if Copts are not granted a quota, Gabriel said he would look to the liberal and Islamic liberal parties to include Copts on their election roll: “There are too few Copts in political groups at the moment.”
Last November official representatives of the three Christian denominations present in Egypt withdrew in protest from the Constituent Assembly over what they perceived to be an Islamist-dominated assembly drafting a constitution that does little to safeguard their rights.