Sunday, March 25, 2012

Egyptian islamists are manipulating composition of panel that is to draft new constitution

 The maglis as-Shaab, the Egyptian lower house of parliament.

 Update: Ahram Online reports: After 13 hours of voting, waiting and counting votes, the final list of the 100-member constituent assembly was announced Sunday, amid much controversy; 65% of the list is controlled by Islamists, 50 members are from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist political parties.The meagre presence of women (just six members), Egyptian Christians (again just six) and Liberal forces has angered many who see the assembly as unrepresentative of a diverse Egypt. Several liberal elected members in the assembly announced their withdrawal including Member of Parliament (MP) Amr Hamzawy , MP Ziad Bahaa El-Din and political activist Ahmed Harara, following the announcement of the list. There have been several calls from leftist and liberal political forces, such as the Free Egyptians Party, for revolutionary youth to return to Tahrir square and protest.

As could be expected the selection of the 100 man strong panel that is to draft the new Egyptian constitution has led to heated controversy. At a session of both chambers of parliament on Saturday to pick the panel, lawmakers from the liberal Egyptian Bloc, which holds 9 percent of the lower house's seats, walked out, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of trying to dominate the selection.
 The military council (SCAF) last year suspended the old constitution after the uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak. In its place it issued an interim constitution that gave the parliament's two houses the right to select those who will draft the new constitution.This new constitution will be put to a vote in a national referendum. However, the guidelines for the process were left vague enough to cause controversies about how the panel should be composed.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis, passed a vote last week to appoint 50 of the panel members from among the members of parliament, while the rest will be drawn from broader society. On Saturday the parliament voted on who would be included in the panel, for which no less than 2,078 people had been nominated. Yet hours before the process was completed, a list of names from parliament and outside became known, that had been distributed among the members of parliament of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), asking these members to vote for the names on the list. 
After that the liberal Egyptian Bloc lawmakers walked out. One of them, Emad Gad of the Social Democratic Party, called the session a "farce" and said the Islamist parties "have already decided on the names and voting is only meant to lend legitimacy to the process. Islamists will write the constitution as they wish but I believe this will lead to many crises," he said. Naguib Sawiris, who founded the Free Egyptians Party, which is also part of the Egyptian Bloc, called the whole process "ridiculous".  "A constitution being written by one force and one force alone. We tried our best but there was no use." Two other parties,  including the leftwing Tagammu, had boycotted the voting from the start. .
 Early results show that the Islamist forces - mainly the FJP and the Salafist Nour Party - will dominate, with some 70 per cent of the assembly’s 100 members. The 50 MPs include 25 FJP MPs, 11 MPs from the Salafist Nour Party and 14 independent and non-Islamist party MPs. The 50 non-parliamentarians include constitutional law professors, prominent public figures, chairmen of political parties, religious clerics and others belonging to Islamist forces. Of the 100  only six women -- three from the parliament and senate and the rest from civil society -- were appointed, along with a handful of Coptic Christians who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of about 80 million.
The assembly is due to hold its first meeting on Wednesday. According to the original schedule, the panel was meant to finish the new constitution before the presidential elections, but that now seems unlikely with the presidential polls scheduled for May.

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