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30 members of Egypt's Constituent Assembly threaten walkout

Almost one third of the members of Egypt's constitution-drafting body threaten to withdraw from assembly to protest 2-week deadline for finalising draft national charter

Ahram Online, Thursday 8 Nov 2012
 30 members of Egypt
Prominent liberal members of the Constituent Assembly such as Amr Moussa and Aymen Nour threaten to quit because of the timeline (Photo: Ahram Online archive)
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Thirty members of Egypt's Constituent Assembly threatened to withdraw from the constitution-drafting body Thursday morning to protest the proposed timeline according to which Egypt's new constitution will be drafted within the next two weeks.

Members who threatened to walk out of the assembly include former Arab League chief and one-time presidential candidate Amr Moussa, assembly spokesman Wahid Abdel-Meguid, liberal politician Ayman Nour and constitutional law professor Gaber Gad Nassar.

In a statement issued Thursday morning, the members in question warned that such a tight timeline would force the assembly to hurriedly "knock out" a new constitution. They censured the hastiness of the process, asserting that the current draft was "unbalanced" with its "poorly crafted" texts.

"Quality and deliberation should be more decisive than the time factor," said Moussa, lashing out at the assembly's administration that allegedly set the two-week timeline "behind their backs."

The members asserted that they would hold meetings to "salvage" the constitution, along with a few other members who voiced dissent over the draft released by the Islamist-led assembly early this month without consulting members, except for a few groups. They called for more room for members to voice their opinions on each article and provide sufficient time for in-depth discussions on the proposed charter.

"Assembly leader Hossam El-Gheriany set 7 November for putting forward written amendments and comments by members, with 8 November for finalising the draft," read the statement. "That's to say, allowing only one day for members' proposed amendments to be considered."

"The set timeline merely allows one day, meaning one session, for addressing each chapter, which is impossible given that the constitution has 230 articles," added the statement.

The statement also declared that the set timeline did not allow for discussion of general and transitional provisions.

"Given the hastiness of the process, there are no guarantees that any of the articles released by the assembly could be amended," the statement added.

The statement made it clear that 19 November had been slated for voting on the final draft, taking no notice of the need for consensus between assembly members, and approving the draft with a narrow margin of 57 votes out of 100.

The beleaguered assembly has already suffered a number of withdrawals since 11 June, when the 'Egyptian Bloc' parties – including the Free Egyptians, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the leftist Tagammu Party – initiated a walk-out, followed by the Karama Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party and the Democratic Front Party, to allow greater representation for women, young people and Coptic Christians, while also registering their objection to "Islamist monopolisation" of the assembly.

In late September, Nasserist Hamdeen Sabbahi and reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei also called for boycotting the current constituent assembly on the grounds that it was incompetent.

The constitution-drafting body still faces the risk of dissolution by court order on the grounds that it was formed by the People's Assembly, the since-dissolved lower house of Egypt's parliament. The court case that will ultimately decide the issue is ongoing.

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