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Political figures, lawmakers reject FJP proposal for constituent assembly

Key political figures object to election criteria set out by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party which gives parliament significant control over choice of members for the constituent assembly

Ahram Online, Sunday 26 Feb 2012
Parliament
Egyptian Parliament (Photo: Reuters)
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A myriad of political figures have rejected a proposal put forward by the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) regarding the criteria used to choose who makes up the 100-member constituent assembly that will be tasked with drafting the country's new constitution.

Last week, prominent FJP parliamentarian Essam El-Erian suggested that the assembly be made up of 40 members of the People’s Assembly and Shura Council, 30 public figures selected by members of the two houses and 30 figures chosen by syndicates, unions, the Al-Azhar institution and the Egyptian church.

Sameh Ashour, the Nasserist head of the lawyers syndicate and deputy head of the Advisory Council to the ruling military council, is one of several politicians who objected to El-Erian's proposal. Ashour emphasised that the problem was not whether those elected to the assembly are Members of Parliament (MP). The problem, he explained, is if one political party or force dominates the assembly as they would have significant influence over who makes up the constitutional assembly.

The FJP, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, won 47% of parliamentary seats in the lower house and more than 50% in the upper house.

Many political figures and parties worry that if the parliament selects the members of the constituent assembly, those chosen would only be representative of the Islamist trend in Egypt.

Independent MP Mahmoud El-Khodairy agreed with Ashour that one political party should not be allowed to dominate the process.

The well-know reform judge, who was supported by the FJP for parliamentary elections in Alexandria, asserted that MPs should make up only 20% of the assembly. The rest of the seats, El-Khodairy said, should go to legal experts, members of syndicates, workers, farmers and diverse political forces. The constituent assembly should represent all sections of Egyptian society including Copts and women, he added.

Liberal judge Noha El-Zeiny added that the first post-Mubarak constitution should be penned by an elected body and be put to national referendum, to gauge public reaction to the country’s most important document.

Three other members of parliament Abdallah El-Meghazy, Sherif Zahran and Marian Malek have also submitted a new draft law to the People's Assembly (Lower House), which would stipulate that all members of the constituent assembly would be elected from outside of the parliament.

The draft law, which was presented to the parliament speaker for revision, stipulates that women, youth and non-Muslims should have at least 10% representation in the assembly.

El-Erian announced that the FJP is now in negotiations with different political factions to try and reach an agreement on election criteria.

"The constitutional assembly, which will put together Egypt's constitution, will be representative of all political forces and factions of society," El Erian said. "The assembly will put together a draft to be discussed within the time frame required."

Both houses of parliament are expected to hold a joint session in the coming days to discuss the issue and to hear the FJP's vision, alongside other political parties, of how the assembly should be formed.

The subject was also raised in a public forum held by the Coptic Anglican Authority in Alexandria on Friday.

Several of the attendees pointed out that the constituent assembly should not include any members of parliament as they would only reflect their own political ideology when penning the constitution. This, they stressed, is unadvisable because the constitution will be permanent whereas elected figures may be replaced in upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, the People's Assembly and Shura Council will hold a joint session on 3 March to select members of the constituent assembly tasked with drafting Egypt's new constitution.

De facto leader Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, announced the move on Sunday.

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