Egypt’s different segments seek representation in Constituent Assembly

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By Heba Hesham

CAIRO: The Egyptian society’s different segments are seeking to secure a place in the Constituent Assembly that would draft the new constitution amid heated debates among political parties on who would constitute the majority of its members.

By Thursday, the People’s Assembly’s general secretariat had gathered all the proposals made by MPs, NGOs, professional syndicates and trade unions for selecting members who would represent all sectors of society.

MPs in the assembly

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which holds around 47 percent of the seats in the People’s Assembly, suggested that 40 of the 100-member assembly be MPs.

While the Salafi Al-Nour Party which came second to the FJP in the elections, suggested that MPs should be represented in the assembly by 60 members, Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiya called for 70 MPs to participate in the assembly.

On the other hand, Amr Hamzawy, outspoken liberal MP, proposed that the assembly comprise 35 MPs.

The liberal Free Egyptians Party submitted a proposal suggesting that only 20 of the 100 members be MPs.

Other MPs, such as Mostafa El-Gendy from Al-Wafd Party, argued that the MPs should be left out of the assembly altogether fearing a conflict of interest when one of the state’s authorities drafts the constitution which outlines the powers of the three authorities.

The leftist Al-Tagammu Party echoed this sentiment.

“While Islamists suggest that MPs should dominate the assembly, liberals and leftists derive legal arguments that would steer away MPs, mainly Islamists, from taking over a majority in the assembly,” constitutional expert Mohamed Nour Farahat, told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper. “It is a legal conflict in principle but political in content.”

Nabil Abdel Fattah, an analyst at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, previously told Daily News Egypt that the Muslim Brotherhood is determined to have the largest share in drafting the constitution.

“I believe the only thing that would determine the criteria of the assembly’s members is what the MB agrees upon with the military council outside parliament,” he argued.

Islamists along with liberals and leftists stressed that the to-be-drafted constitution would equally represent all categories of the society.

Religious representation

Religious minorities, particularly Copts, who constitute around 12 percent of the population, received special attention in the submitted proposals.

Hamzawy suggested that religious institutes should only be represented by 2 members, one for Al-Azhar and one for the church.

The Democratic Front Party, however, believes that seven Copts in the assembly is enough while the Free Egyptians Party deems that 10 members would be even better.

The Egyptian Democratic Institute said that the Islamic majority should have one representative from Al-Azhar, preferably not the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar or the Grand Mufti.

Three Coptic clerics, one from each church, would serve Copts more; Jews and Bahais would also each have one representative in the assembly, according to Ramy Hafez, a researcher at the institute.

Shady Talaat, head of the Lawyers Union for Legal and Democratic Studies, said that while at least 10 Copts should be part of the assembly, two Shias should also represent their community.

Women, workers and governorates

Meanwhile, the Feminine Organizations Alliance, which comprise 450 women’s rights foundations and NGOs, called upon the military council to ensure the representation of women in the Constituent Assembly should not be less than 30 percent and stressed on the need for a fair representation of women in all leadership positions.

Talaat said that 20 women would be enough to uphold their rights in the constitution. The Democratic Institute, however, believes three women would be fine. “They don’t even have to be women; they can be men who have long been women’s rights advocates,” Hafez said.

Ahmed Abdel Zaher, head of the Workers’ Union, said that the union needs four representatives in the assembly. “We only need an assertion on the workers’ legal and economic rights that were guaranteed in the 1971 constitution,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Lawyers Union rejected the large percentage trade unions and professional syndicates wished to have in the Constituent Assembly, citing that most board members of these syndicates are affiliated to the MB which will be represented by MPs from both the People’s Assembly and Shoura Council.

As for the geographic representation of governorates, Hafez added that the institute believes the representation of Bedouins and Nouba residents should be through the bodies that were formed for their development post the revolution.

Talaat and Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat, head of human rights committee at the PA echoed this suggestion.

A shadow assembly

While Al-Adl Party suggested that Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who recently dropped out of Egypt’s presidential race in protest of the ruling military council’s performance, be a member in the assembly, Mohamed Zeraa, head of the Arab Organization for Penal Reform, along with other 20 NGOs suggested the formation of the shadow assembly.

“We decided to form a 100-member shadow assembly that comprises experts in all specializations and submit their names to the concerned entities. Those 100 can be the members of the assembly, but we won’t decide on their names until this proposal is accepted,” he told DNE.

The Democratic Institute, on the other hand, believes that selecting a public figure could affect the general consensus on the constitution.

It sees that it is extremely important for the parliament to justify its selection of each member in order to avoid questioning these choices and also to face any mistrust between people and the parliament.

According to Al-Shorouk newspaper, the majority of the proposals received by the general secretariat suggested that parliamentarians would be represented by 40 percent; one MP from the upper house for every three from the lower house.



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