By Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: Political parties and MPs announced their nominations for the Constituent Assembly members, ahead of a vote set for the joint meeting of both houses of parliament on Saturday.
The new constitution will replace the 1971 constitution, which was suspended on Feb. 11, following the 18-day revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Fifty percent of the 100-member Constituent Assembly is allocated to MPs, leaving the other half to the different factions of Egyptian society including representatives of syndicates and institutions as well as public figures.
The 50 percent allocated to MPs will be divided among political parties depending on the number of seats won in parliamentary elections.
Both the upper and lower houses of parliament are dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), followed by the hardline Salafi Al-Nour Party.
Registration for the Constituent Assembly closed Wednesday at 2 pm. The process began on Sunday.
Nader Bakkar, spokesperson of Al-Nour, told Daily News Egypt that the party has nominated several MPs and public figures from outside the party, in a bid to show their “good will” and guarantee the representation of all Egypt’s factions in the Constituent Assembly.
These figures include liberal independent MP Amr Hamzawy, independent MP and political analyst Amr El-Choubaki, Al-Wafd Party MPs Margaret Aazer and Mahmoud El-Saqqa, Cairo University political science professor Heba Raouf, renowned football player Mohamed Abou Tereika, singer Iman El-Bahr Darwish and writer Sekeina Fouad.
Bakkar said his party will occupy 10 of the 50 seats reserved for MPs.
“We increased the seats of the independent MPs to 10 as well, so they can be well represented in the Constituent Assembly,” he added.
Ahmed Abou Baraka, leading FJP member, said his party has not yet decided on the candidates, stressing that they would be representative of Egypt’s factions.
Basel Adel, MP for the Free Egyptians Party (FEP) which is part of the Egyptian Bloc that came in fourth place in the lower house elections winning 33 seats out of 498, listed the most prominent names nominated by his party.
The candidates include the party’s founder and business mogul Naguib Sawiris, Judge Tahani El-Gebaly, renowned director Khaled Youssef, actor Mohamed Sobhi, leading member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and MP Mohamed Nour Farahat and member of the Free Egyptians executive bureau Hany Sarei El-Din.
Basel said that the FEP and the Social Democratic Party, members of the Egyptian Bloc, will each try to take at least two or three seats from the 50 reserved for MPs.
“But the Islamists are taking over the Constituent Assembly because they have the majority in parliament, which might make it difficult for us,” Basel told DNE.
Al-Tagammu Party, the last member of the Bloc, boycotted the Constituent Assembly in protest of the alleged coalition between the FJP and Al-Nour.
“No political and legislative mind could accept the fact that the parliament majority chooses those who draft the constitution, because the majority might change in the upcoming parliamentary elections,” Secretary General of Al-Tagammu Party, Sayed Abdel Aaal, said.
‘We can’t change the constitution depending on the parliament’s majority,” he added.
The FJP and Al-Nour strongly denied these accusations.
“This is completely untrue; each party makes its own decisions regarding its candidates for the Constituent Assembly on its own. There’s no need to have meetings,” Bakkar said.
Each MP from both the People’s Assembly and Shoura Council will vote for a candidate, and the 100 candidates with the most votes will be elected, according to Abou Baraka.
Bakkar said that the final method of voting on members of the Constituent Assembly, which is scheduled to take place in a meeting on Saturday, hasn’t been decided yet.
“We propose that each party announce its candidates and the top 100 who receive the most votes from the MPs be elected,” Bakkar said.
The MPs interviewed by DNE agreed that the winner will not win by absolute majority (50 plus 1), but through the highest number of votes received in comparison with other candidates.
The criteria for selecting the representatives of other state institutions and society factions also remain unclear.
Mostafa El-Gendy, former leading member of Al-Wafd Party and current member of the Revolution Continues Coalition — which won 2 percent of the lower house seats — cited a different list of candidates.
His list includes Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, renowned novelist Alaa Al-Aswany, prominent liver transplant doctor Mohamed Ghoneim, and members of the revolutionary youth including Khaled Teleima and Amr Ezz.
After the Constituent Assembly is elected, it will start drafting the new constitution. The constitution will then be subject to a referendum.
It was not clear whether the meeting and the elections on Saturday will bring an end to the debate on the decision to give MPs 50 percent of the Assembly seats. The decision, taken in a joint meeting of both houses of parliament last Saturday, has been heavily criticized and also challenged in court.
One activist said on Wednesday he obtained a ruling annulling the parliament’s decision, but a court official said the case was still under consideration by the Administrative Court.
Earlier this week, the Lawyers’ Union for Legal Studies and Democracy called upon political parties, civil society organizations, syndicates and individuals to withdraw legitimacy from both houses of the parliament and the Constituent Assembly, claiming they are unconstitutional.
MP Mohamed Abu Hamed, who recently resigned from the FEP, called for a march on Saturday March 24 to the Supreme Constitutional Court with the participation of a group of senior judges and civil society organizations to file a lawsuit to invalidate the rules of selection of the Assembly.