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Some constitution writers reject non-Islamists' withdrawal claims

Islamist-leaning Constituent Assembly members downplay impact of withdrawals by non-Islamists, saying the constitution-drafting body will continue its work normally

Ahram Online, Monday 19 Nov 2012
Constituent Assembly members reject withdrawal claims
A general view of the two chambers of parliament meeting to elect the 100 members of the constituent assembly in Cairo June 12, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
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Current members of Egypt's constitution-drafting body, the Constituent Assembly, have downplayed the recent withdrawals of other members, claiming the number who have withdrawn is not as high as has been reported by the media.

At a press conference held on Monday, the current members stressed that the assembly will resume its work normally.

Several assembly members had staged a withdrawal on Sunday after giving a two day warning.  They called for the proposed timeline of the new constitution, which would see the document completed in two weeks, to be extended to three months. They also demanded that certain articles in the "State and Society" section of the constitutional draft be changed.  The two demands were not met.

Constituent Assembly member Abul-Ela Mady of the Islamist Wasat Party complained at the press conference that several of the articles objected to by those who have withdrawn were in fact proposed by those same members.

According to Constituent Assembly secretary-general and Freedom and Justice Party member Amr Darrag, the numbers of those who have withdrawn are less than a third of the assembly, contrary to some claims.  

"Some of those who signed the statement in favour of the withdrawal were not assembly members," he said, refuting the claim that more than thirty of the 100 assembly members have withdrawn.

Abdel-Moneim El-Sawy, who enjoys a working relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and became assembly spokesperson after Abdel-Meguid withdrew on Sunday, brushed off criticisms from those who have left their positions, defending the constitution-drafting body as "transparent" and "open to suggestions."

Darrag for his part rejected media statements saying that the "civil [non-Islamist] camp" have withdrawn from the assembly, saying he objected to the Islamist versus non-Islamist dichotomy.

The 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, out of concerns about a lack of representation of women, young people and Coptic Christians, while also registering their objection to the "Islamist monopolisation" of the assembly.

Meanwhile, the assembly is still facing the risk of dissolution by court order due to a case challenging the constitutionality of the law which set the criteria for choosing its members. The 100 assembly members were chosen by the now-dissolved parliament, which was ruled unconstitutional by the High Constitutional Court (HCC) in mid-June.  

On 23 October, the Supreme Administrative Court referred the lawsuit challenging the assembly's constitutionality to the HCC, which is yet to issue its verdict. It has been claimed that some assembly members are attempting to draft the constitution quickly and submit it for a national referendum before the court issues its verdict.

The first assembly was dissolved in April after a court ruling stated it was not representative of Egyptian society. The same criticism is being directed at the current constitution-drafting body. 

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