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Conflict in the Constituent Assembly

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Media interviews with representatives from the 50-member assembly detail that several topics are in heated debate

A general view of Egypt's 50-member panel that has been tasked with drawing up a new constitution during their first meeting in Cairo. (AFP File Photo)

A general view of Egypt’s 50-member constituent assembly during their first meeting in Cairo. (AFP File Photo)

Nour Party representative in the Constituent Assembly, Salah Abdel Maaboud, said Thursday that the party will not accept the inclusion of the words “civil” or “democratic” in any of the constitutional articles, as reported by Al-Rai newspaper of Kuwait.

Abdel Maaboud said that both these terms would lead to a “non-religious state”, due to their ambiguity and unclear definitions.

The recently instated representative complained about discrimination within the Constituent Assembly from other political factions: “Their actions raise questions regarding the intention to cooperate with different political factions.”

The party’s representative, Bassam Al-Zarqa, withdrew from the Constituent Assembly in protest over a disagreement on the topic of Sharia in the constitution; he was substituted on 20 September.

Abdel Maaboud added that Al-Nour Party would like the Shura council to remain as the lower elected house; however, “certain conditions and constraints should be placed on those running for seats in Shura Council.” He added that “Al-Nour Party should not be categorised as an Islamist party, but is primarily a political party.”

Amr Al-Shoubaki, rapporteur of the Political Freedoms and Rights Sub-Committee, said that complex conflicts exist over certain articles in the upcoming constitution, adding that the “lack of trust between Islamist and liberal representatives is causing complications in the assembly.”

He stated that there is an overall feeling of fear by the different bodies regarding upcoming elected authorities, in addition to the fear and mistrust between different political forces”, prompting each party to “seek guarantees in the upcoming constitution”.

Al-Shoubaki added that “10 articles remain subject to controversy within the Constituent Assembly.”

Constituent Assembly spokesman Mohamed Salmawy said on Monday that there is disagreement between the voting blocs of the Coptic Church and Al-Azhar over specific articles in the constitution.  While declining to say which articles were disputed, Salmawy confirmed that it was not articles two and three, which address the role of religion in the state. The two sides are making progress towards reaching an agreement, he said.

On Tuesday, the Constituent Assembly held its first closed session, with the absence of media coverage. Salmawy announced that out of over 200 constitutional articles, the assembly’s drafting committee was done with 189.

“The new draft includes 18 new articles which were never included in Egypt’s previous constitutions,” Salmawy added.


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