Minister of Manpower and Immigration Kamal Abu Eita called on the Constituent Assembly to maintain the 50% parliamentary quota for labourers and farmers for “a transitional period” in the new constitution, in a message sent to the assembly on Saturday.
Abu Eita justified his demands by saying that time is needed to form “syndicates truly representing labourers and farmers, which can be done during a five-year-transitional-period. After this period we can remove this affirmative-action article.”
The minister urged the assembly to accept his demand in order to “preserve the national alliance that stood behind the revolutions of 25 January and 30 June,” describing the cancellation of the quota as “the political powers forcing out the social powers.”
“As a citizen, I totally support every article in the draft constitution, except for cancelling the [labourers and farmers] quota, knowing that forces from previous regimes used the cancellation of the quota as justification to call on people to vote against the constitution,” Abu Eita added in his message.
The minister “pleaded” with the assembly to keep the quota so that the new constitution “does not have fewer votes than the constitution of disgrace that we overthrew,” in reference to the suspended 2012 constitution.
The assembly agreed on 19 October to cancel the 50% designated quota for labourers and farmers in parliament, a quota which assembly spokesman Mohamed Salmawy said had been “repeatedly abused by political parties.”
“The definition of labourers and farmers in previous constitutions was never clear, and it is almost impossible” to clarify in a way that would prevent the quota’s exploitation, Salmawy added in justification to the cancellation decision.
In protest of the quota’s removal, Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) chairman and assembly representative, Abdel Fatah Ibrahim, announced on Monday his preliminary withdrawal from the assembly, and threatened to file a lawsuit to dissolve the body.