By Heba Hesham
CAIRO: Politicians denounced the make-up of the 100-member Constituent Assembly, elected by parliamentarians on Saturday, saying it was dominated by Islamists as expected.
The assembly, comprised of 50 MPs and 50 members from outside parliament, is tasked with drafting the new constitution. It will hold its first meeting on March 28.
Some elected members have withdrawn in protest of the majority dominating the Assembly, including members of the Social Democratic Party and the Free Egyptians Party. Others are mulling following suit including Amr Hamzawy, outspoken liberal MP.
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, while dominating about 40 percent of the other half of the Assembly.
In total, this gives Islamists almost 60 percent of the Constituent Assembly, according to Egynews.net. There are only five women and six Copts along with a number of non-Islamists.
The state-run media outlet said the final list of the 100 members, announced at around 3 am on Sunday, matched a list distributed during the vote by the FJP, which reportedly was in agreement with Al-Nour Party.
The final results were almost identical to this list, which provoked other MPs and political powers who claimed there was prior consensus between FJP and Al-Nour, which together hold two-thirds of parliament seats.
However, Osama Soliman, FJP MP, told Egypt 25 TV channel that “the distributed list was a guiding one to all MPs in the voting process, in an effort to introduce a large number of candidates to MPs from all political streams, especially those we coordinated with regarding the members of the assembly. But, it wasn’t for FJP and Al-Nour MPs only.”
MPs voted for 100 members from 2,078 candidates, including 360 MPs. They also picked 40 backup names — 20 of which are MPs — to replace any member if needed.
The new constitution will replace the 1971 constitution, which was annulled by the ruling military council that took over power following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. It will define the relationship between state authorities and the people, the system of governance, the role of Sharia, and the political role of the military.
During the heated joint session of both houses of parliament on Saturday, MPs from the liberal Egyptian Bloc, which holds 9 percent of People’s Assembly’s seats, walked out in protest of what they say are Islamists monopolizing the Assembly.
The leftist Al-Tagammu Party, also member of the Bloc, had previously announced its withdrawal from the vote and participation in the Assembly.
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.
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 changing [parliamentary] majority the right to draft the constitution; and because there were more than 2,000 candidates, some of which we knew nothing about and didn’t have enough time to look at their CVs,” Adel told Daily News Egypt.
He added that some influential public figures were excluded from the candidates, including Mohamed Nour Farahat, Tahany El-Gibaly, Hossam Eissa, Ahmed Zewail and Mohamed Hassanein Heikal.
“Islamists are applying the ‘choose your opponents’ theory,” he said.
Four of those who withdrew are key members of the Assembly while another four are backups.
Amr Hamzawy is also expected to withdraw from the Assembly. He asked for advice from his constituents on whether to continue or withdraw his membership, in an informal poll on social networking sites.
“The majority of the Assembly is dominated by one stream [Islamists] which contradicts the nature of its task: to draft a consensual document that represents all factions of society,” said Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, leading member of the Popular Coalition Socialist Party, who was elected into the Assembly.
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 out 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 list of 78 names to be elected; that left only 22 others to be freely elected. 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.
MPs Mustafa Bakry, Nagi El-Shihabi, Abdel Fattah Abdel Samie, El-Said Negieda and Khaled Haddad withdrew their candidacy.
A law firm filed a lawsuit before the Administrative Court of the State Council against Mohamed Saad El-Katatny, PA speaker, to invalidate the decision to have half the Assembly made up of MPs, according to Egynews.net.
The case memo said the contested decision contradicts the constitutional declaration and was an administrative decision that falls under the jurisdiction of the administrative judiciary.
Lawyer Nabil Ghebrial sent a warning to the Prime Minister, urging him to ask the Supreme Constitutional Court for an interpretation of Article 60 of the constitutional declaration, a subject of contention among various political streams.
The article stipulates that MPs elect members of the Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution within six months of their election and then call for a referendum within 15 days.
Mohamed Badie, MB leader, attacked those who objected to the formation of the Assembly, saying they are blatantly ignorant when it comes to the constitution, the law, the Arabic language and rules of litigation. There are attempts to deceive the public by saying this decision is unconstitutional, he was quoted by Egynewns.net as saying.
Thirty-three NGOs slammed what they described as the majority isolating itself from Egypt’s reality.
“Opponents to the majority’s opinion have two options; [the first is to] wait to adopt a constitution that will be drafted in isolation from all powers of the society, tampers with Egyptian identity, restricts freedom and eliminates communal harmony,” several NGOs said in a collective statement.
The other option, the statement added, is to reject the principle of nationalizing Egypt’s future to the orientation of one faction of society.
Some of the 50 MPs who joined the Assembly are El-Katatny, Mahmoud El-Khodeiry, Mahmoud El-Saqqa, Mohamed El-Beltagy, Mohamed Abdel Alim Dawod, Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat, Essam Sultan, Hussien Ibrahim, Ashraf Sabet, Amr El-Chobbaki, Farid Ismail, Essam El-Erian, Ossama Yassin, Wahid Abdel-Meguid, Sobhy Saleh, Hoda Ghania, Hamzawy, Bahaa El-Din, Margeret Azer and Ahmed Saied.
Some of the 50 non-MPs are SCAF member Mamdouh Shahin, Nasr Farid Wasel, Hossam El-Ghiriany, Farouk Goweida, Mohamed Refaa El-Tahtawy, Sameh Ashour, Moataz Abdel Fattah, Mohamed Aboul Ghar, Nader Bakkar, Al-Said Al-Badawy, Mamdouh El-Walli, Nadia Mostafa, Ashraf Abdel Ghaffor, Mona Makram Ebied, Rafiq Habib, Ahmed Harara, Mostafa Kamel El-Said and Shokr.