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Political forces reach uneasy agreement on Egypt's constituent assembly

Egypt's parliamentary forces arrive at tentative conclusion on composition of hotly disputed constitution-drafting body in negotiations that ran through night ahead of SCAF's Thursday meeting

Ahram Online, Thursday 7 Jun 2012
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Egyptians protesting against dominance of Brotherhood on the constituent assembly (Photo: Reuters)
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Parliamentary political parties are due to meet with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) 2:30pm Thursday, at the end of a 48-hour grace period granted by the ruling military council for the political forces to determine the formation of the constituent assembly. This follows a heated meeting at the Wafd Party headquarters that lasted until 4am Thursday morning between delegates of Egypt's parliamentary forces, who reached a tentative agreement.

The ruling military council stated Tuesday that in the event that no consensus is reached it would either issue an amended version of March 2011's Constitutional Declaration or revive the 1971 Constitution. 

After hours of wrangling, however, the meeting's delegates agreed that 39 of the 100 seats would be designated to political parties, of which the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) will hold 16; the Salafist Nour Party eight; the liberal Wafd Party five; the Free Egyptians Party two; the Egyptian Social Democratic Party two; and one each for the moderate-Islamist Wasat Party, the Nasserist Karama Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the liberal Reform and Development Party and the Islamist Building and Development Party.

It was also agreed that 15 judges, nine religious figures – five from Al-Azhar and four from the Coptic Church – ten public figures, ten revolutionary youth (women and men), seven members of workers and farmers unions, seven members of professional syndicates, a representative from the police, another of the army and one from the Ministry of Justice.

However, not all those who attended the meeting were satisfied with allocation of the independent seats. Mohamed Abul-Ghar head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and Egyptian Bloc MPs Emad Gad, and Farid Zahran walked out as they felt that the FJP parliamentarians would take over the assembly. Free Egyptians Party representatives withdrew from the meeting as well.

Nevertheless, Hadara Party MP and head of Culture and Media Committee in the People's Assembly Mohamed Abdel-Moneim El-Sawy said that the withdrawal of some the attendees did not mean that the meeting had failed.

El-Sawy explained that the dispute arose when the FJP members insisted that 55 per cent of both the independent and parliamentary party assembly's seats should go to Islamist representatives.

"The Islamist parties insisted on getting a majority of the seats in the whole assembly," said Emad Gad. "The fact that they [Salafist Nour Party and the Brotherhood's FJP] will be getting alone more than 20 per cent of the seats was not enough for them. They wanted to secure independent seats as well. This is not acceptable. We agreed with the other parties that no political force would dominate the assembly as the coming constitution should be representing the interests of all Egyptians."

The meeting was chaired by El-Sayed El-Badawi, head of the Wafd Party and Fouad Badrawy, the liberal party's secretary-general. Osama Yassin, Ahmed Diab and Farid Ismail attended the meeting as FJP representatives and Sayed Khalifa represented the Nour Party.

Ayman Nour head of Ghad Al-Thawra Party, Wasat Party leader Abul Ela Madi, independent MP Wahid Abdel-Meguid, Ahmed Said head of the Free Egyptians Party, MP Abdel-Moneim El-Sawy of the Islamist Al-Nahda Party, all attended the meeting as well.

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