Politicians warn of Islamists monopolizing Constituent Assembly

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By Heba Hesham

CAIRO: Political powers denounced the criteria set by both houses of parliament for selecting members of the Constituent Assembly, tasked with drafting a new constitution.

The People’s Assembly and the Shoura Council decided that 50 percent of the 100-member assembly will be comprised of Members of Parliament.

“It is clear that the Islamic majority in parliament had agreed together on this proposal. Therefore, they are the ones who will allocate the representation percentages of each party in parliament,” said Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, leading member of the Popular Coalition Socialist Party.

Before Saturday’s vote on the criteria of the Constituent Assembly, Hussien Ibrahim, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party’s (FJP) parliamentary bloc, proposed modifying the party’s proposal that 40 percent of the assembly comprise of MPs.

His suggestion that 50 members of the assembly are MPs while the remaining 50 be selected from outside parliament was adopted by a majority 80 percent of the vote.

“This echoes the same style and standards of the dissolved National Democratic Party that used to impose its opinions on the minority,” said Abdel Aziz El-Nahas, leading member of Al-Wafd Party, in reference to ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s party which was disbanded after the January 2011 uprising.

El-Nahas said MPs should not dominate the majority of the assembly. “The changing majority should not draft a constitution that is for the following generations,” he said.

The liberal politician expressed concerns about the representation of other sectors of society including women, the Church and Al-Azhar in what he described as a “pitiful percentage” of non-MPs.

As for the MPs in the assembly, he added, since “the Islamists dominated this decision, they will dominate the 50 percent of MPs.”

Spokesman of the leftist Al-Tagammu Party Nabil Zaki said Islamists had falsely declared earlier that all categories of society will be represented in the assembly. However, the 50/50 decision revealed their determination to dominate the process of drafting the constitution, he argued.

“Any public figures or members of other streams will be [cosmetic], to give legitimacy to certain decisions that will serve their [Islamists’] interests,” he said.

Al-Tagammu initiated calls with the Egyptian Bloc, in which it is a member along with the Free Egyptians and the Social Democratic Parties, and other leftist parties to discuss a call to withdraw from the formation of the Constituent Assembly.

“This is a response to what we see as tampering with the country’s future,” Hussien Abdel Razeq, member of the high political bureau of the party, told DNE.

The National Association for Change announced that it is currently studying a possibility to go to court to revoke the decision, citing a conflict of interest if parliamentarians dominate the assembly.

“The participation of the legislative authority in drafting the constitution, which sets the regulations of the three authorities, would lead to injustice to the other two authorities of the state,” the association said in a statement.

According to Zaki, a number of legal and constitutional experts, including Mohamed Nour Farahat, Ibrahim Darwish, Tharwat Badawy, Ahmed Kamal Aboul Magd, Noha El-Zeiny and Tahany El-Gebaly, also expressed concern.

Councilor El-Gebaly, vice president of the Supreme Constitutional Court, said the 50/50 decision will annul any guarantee of the independence of the three authorities, adding that this decision comes with many legal risks.

“A number of electoral appeals filed have not been considered yet,” she said, referring to lawsuits that challenge the parliamentary election results. “If the verdict invalidates the membership of any of the participating MPs in the Constituent Assembly, this will cause a major constitutional crisis,” she told Al-Hayah TV on Saturday.

Commenting on the intention of the National Association for Change to appeal the decision, she said that if the Constituent Assembly was formed without the presence of an integrated law that regulates its formation, its constitutionality can be appealed.

Lawyer Sobhy Saleh, FJP MP, criticized the opposing opinions.

“These negative reactions are all expected… Therefore, they lost their value,” he told DNE.

Saleh questioned the reasons behind appealing the decision. “This decision is an accurate application of Article 60 of the Constitutional Declaration,” he said.

Various political streams have been embroiled in a debate about the interpretation of Article 60 of the constitutional declaration, which states that the MPs should elect members of the Constituent Assembly to draft the constitution within six months and then call for a referendum within 15 days.



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