By Mai Shams El-Din
CAIRO: Four members of the Constituent Assembly elected to draft Egypt’s new constitution declared Monday their withdrawal from the Islamist-dominated panel, putting the total number of walkouts at 12 so far.
Amr Hamzawy, liberal lawmaker and researcher, Mona Makram Ebeid, member of the Social Democratic Party and political science professor, Sameh Ashour, head of Lawyers’ Syndicate, and activist Ahmed Harara, walked out of the 100-strong Constituent Assembly objecting to what they believe is a panel that does not fully represent Egyptian society and one which is dominated by Islamists.
The assembly, comprised of 50 MPs and 50 members from outside parliament, will hold its first meeting on March 28.
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Salafi Al-Nour garnered around 75 percent of the 50 percent allocated to lawmakers, that is 38 members, while dominating about 40 percent (20 members) of the other half of the assembly, thus totaling 58 members, almost 60 percent of the assembly.
“The final formation of the Constituent Assembly does not meet the proper criteria of professionalism and balanced representation of society’s political and social diversity,” Hamzawy said in an official statement on Monday.
“I refuse an assembly that favors loyalty over professionalism, which flies in the face of a balanced representation to draft a constitution that should suit Egypt after the revolution,” he said.
He added that he understands that the parliamentary representation will be reflected in the assembly, but rejected the general lack of objective criteria in the choice of members.
Harara, Ashour and Ebeid were not available for comment by press time.
The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) slammed in a statement Monday the lack of representation of women in the Constituent Assembly which includes only six women.
“It seems that we are going back in time for women’s issues in Egypt by building a new NDP, after the Egyptian revolution dismantled it, striking at the heart of the revolution’s goals of equality and justice,” ECWR said.
“The ECWR wonders if Tunisia’s revolution is an inspiration to the Egyptian people in its revolution. When will Egypt take progressive steps like Tunisia through a process that follows a future plan based on citizenship?”
During the heated joint session of both houses of parliament on Saturday, MPs from the liberal Egyptian Bloc, which holds 9 percent of PA seats, walked out in protest at what they say is the monopolization of the assembly by Islamists.
The leftist Al-Tagammu Party, a member of the Egyptian Bloc, had previously announced its withdrawal from the vote and participation in the Constituent Assembly altogether.
According to Al-Shorouk daily, a number of those elected into the assembly have withdrawn. Five belong to the Social Democratic Party: Ziad Bahaa El-Din, Ihab Al-Kharrat, Mohamed Aboul Ghar, Emad Gad and Hazem El-Beblawi, while three members of the Free Egyptians Party, Ahmed Saeed, Basel Adel and Hani Sarie El-Din, also walked out.
“We withdrew because we refuse to give a [parliamentary] majority which will eventually change, the right to draft the constitution; and because there were more than 2,000 candidates, some of whom we knew nothing about and didn’t have enough time to look at their CVs,” Adel previously told Daily News Egypt.
He added that some influential public figures were excluded from the candidates, including the Social Democratic Party’s Mohamed Nour Farahat, Constitutional Court Judge Tahany El-Gibaly, lawyer and university professor Hossam Eissa, Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail and veteran journalist and writer Mohamed Hassanein Heikal.
“Islamists are applying the ‘choose your opponents’ theory,” he said.
Four of those who withdrew were voted in as key members of the Constituent Assembly while another four were elected as backup members to replace potential walkouts.
“The assembly is dominated by one stream [Islamists] which contradicts the nature of its task: to draft a consensus document that represents all factions of society,” said Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, leading member of the Popular Coalition Socialist Party, who was elected.
Shokr told DNE that he too might withdraw.
“The withdrawal decision is a brave and smart one. You cannot say that they should stay to balance the assembly because there was no balance in the first place,” said Essam Sheha, legal activist and leading member of the liberal Al-Wafd Party.
“They [Islamists] distributed a recommended list of 78 names which left only 22 others. However, for those 22 to gain the highest votes, they [may] have coordinated with the majority and will have to repay this favor later by agreeing to their decisions,” he added.