Hossam El-Ghariani, head of Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council, was elected chairman on Monday of Egypt's Constituent Assembly, which is responsible for drafting a new constitution. El-Ghariani assumed the position after being elected – uncontested – by Constituent Assembly members, who were themselves elected by Egypt's now-defunct Islamist-led parliament.
Monday’s Constituent Assembly election was held at the premises of Egypt's Shura Council (the upper, consultative house of Egypt's parliament). It was chaired by Hassan El-Shafei, a representative of the Al-Azhar Islamic institution and the assembly's oldest member.
Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website reported that Coptic-Christian assembly members did not attend the meeting.
El-Ghariani was nominated for the position by Essam Sultan, co-founder of the moderate-Islamist Wasat Party; one-time presidential hopeful Ayman Nour; and Essam El-Erian, leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party.
"I hope you don't regret your choice," El-Ghariani declared following his election. "Some assembly members did not show up today… I hope they're not refusing to come after the latest developments. There's no room for anyone to shirk their national responsibilities."
Members of the Constituent Assembly were elected last Tuesday by Egypt's Islamist-led parliament. The assembly may well be dissolved, however, following the dissolution of the People's Assembly (the lower house of Egypt's parliament), pursuant to a ruling by the High Constitutional Court that declared Egypt's Parliamentary Elections Law – which governed last year's parliamentary polls – unconstitutional.
The dissolution of the People's Assembly means the SCAF will enjoy full legislative and executive authority over the country's affairs until the election of a new assembly.
What's more, according to the new addendum to the SCAF's March 2011 Constitutional Declaration, the military council will have the right to unilaterally choose the members of a reconstituted Constituent Assembly should the assembly be dissolved.
Article 60/B1 of the new Constitutional Addendum gives the president, the prime minister, the head of the SCAF, the Supreme Judicial Council, or five members of the Constituent Assembly, the right to call on the constitution-drafting body to reconsider any new constitutional articles while it is being drafted.
According to the Constitutional Addendum, this can only be done if the articles in question "contravene the goals of the January 25 Revolution or the principles of previous Egyptian constitutions."