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Egypt parliamentary committee rejects SCAF criteria for constituent assembly

Criteria agreed upon Saturday by military council and political party representatives for choosing members of new constitution-drafting assembly rejected by parliamentary committee

Ahram Online, Sunday 29 Apr 2012
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Views: 2039

A parliamentary committee has rejected the agreement reached Saturday by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and political party representatives, which put in place six main criteria for choosing members of Egypt's constitution-drafting assembly.

Mahmoud El-Khodeiry, head parliament's legislative and constitutional committee, described the agreement as an infringement upon the authority of parliament to freely choose members of the constituent assembly responsible for drafting Egypt's new constitution as dictated by article 60 of the constitutional declaration.  

Earlier this month, parliament's speaker Mohamed Saad El-Katatni commissioned the committee to define the criteria for selecting members of the constituent assembly.     

However, the SCAF met with political parties on Saturday and agreed upon six main criteria by which the constituent assembly would be formed.

In response, El-Khodeiry stated that he was frustrated with how it was taken for granted that these criteria had already been agreed upon without his committee being notified. He added that had the criteria agreed upon in Saturday's meeting been sent to the committee they would have been discussed and incorporated with the committee's suggestions.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood's Sobhi Saleh justified the meeting, explaining that the criteria suggested were not obligatory and thus did not infringe upon the committee's authority. He added that in the end, parliament would choose the constituent assembly and the committee would set the criteria.

Mamdouh Ismail MP criticised the Brotherhood, the largest party in parliament, for attending the meeting and ignoring parliament's committee.

The committee will be filing a complaint to parliament's speaker, Mohamed Saad El-Katatni, after which parliament will vote either to support the criteria dictated by Saturday's meeting with the SCAF or for the committee to continue its discussions over the criteria for membership of the constituent assembly.

The 6 points agreed upon in the meeting are:  

  1. Consensus has to be reached over the proportions allotted to each societal group or faction in deference to the administrative court ruling.
  2. Consensus has to be reached over any single constitutional article. In case consensus cannot be reached, a two-thirds majority must be reached and if such a majority cannot be reached within 24 hours, then a 57-member majority – out of 100 members – would be sufficient. 
  3. Each party will choose its own representatives. Religious institutions will also choose their representatives. Al-Azhar will choose four, while Egypt's churches including the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican will choose six representatives. Ten legal and constitutional experts will be chosen and a member of each judicial institution will also be represented in the constituent assembly. Farmers will be allotted two constituents and workers will also be granted two seats. Public figures including women, students and the disabled will also be assigned seats. 
  4. Efforts will be exerted to finish the drafting of the new constitution before presidential election runoffs are completed.
  5. Egypt's de-facto leader and SCAF head Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi will call both upper and lower houses of parliament to stage a joint meeting to elect members of the constituent assembly.
  6. A supervising committee will be formed to include representatives of the Wafd Party, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, the Egyptian Bloc, El-Hadara Party and the Ghad El-Thawra Party. The committee will also include independent MPs including Mostafa Bakry and Marian Malak.

Attempts by Egypt's political elites to proceed in the constitutional-drafting process have been beset with troubles from the start, the first assembly being disbanded.

Days after the formation of the first assembly, a mass walkout jeopardised the constitution-drafting body. Members from liberal and leftist parties, independent prominent figures and representatives of professional and trade unions as well as representatives of the Coptic Church and Egypt's main Islamic authority, Al-Azhar, all pulled out, citing disproportionate representation.

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