The executive office of the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution is due to hold an urgent meeting tomorrow. Amr Darrag, the assembly’s secretary-general, indicated that the meeting would be entirely devoted to discussing the Administrative Court ruling expected Tuesday on the dissolution of the assembly. Darrag said the urgent meeting would be followed by a press conference to explain to the public the position of the executive office regarding expected verdicts.
Darrag, a leading official of Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), said “There is a high sense of concern that the verdict of the Administrative Court on Tuesday will be in favour of dissolving the 100-member assembly, and so we decided to hold a meeting one day ahead of this verdict to review all options against it.”
“The members of the assembly were highly worried by last week’s decision of the State Council (to which the Administrative Court belongs) to give a verdict on all appeals aimed at invalidating the assembly on 17 July rather than 4 September as was earlier announced,” Darrag said.
“This is a bad signal that the verdict expected Tuesday will be politicised as usual.”
State Council officials said the verdict on the appeals was pushed forward to 17 July after lawyers submitted a petition complaining that 4 September was too late.
Darrag and several FJP officials launched a hostile campaign against the judiciary in recent days, accusing it of issuing “politicised” verdicts and saying that its members belong to the old regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
Mohamed El-Beltagi, a leading FJP official, surprised all Saturday by insisting that “The activities and the meetings of the [Constituent Assembly] will go on even if Cairo’s Administrative Court orders on 17 July that these activities be suspended and the assembly itself dissolved.”
El-Beltagi added: “We will not ignore the judicial order but the assembly’s activities will continue as a civil society interested in writing Egypt’s new constitution and that its members are volunteers.”
Joining forces with El-Beltagi, Ayman Nour, the assembly’s deputy secretary-general and chairman of the Revolution Tomorrow Party, said: “It is by no means reasonable that efforts that have so far been exerted in writing Egypt’s new constitution come to an abrupt end by the Administrative Court.”
Nour explained: “We mean that even if the court ordered the dissolution of the assembly, its activities would not stop and would continue until the constitution-drafting committee finishes its job.”
Wahid Abdel-Meguid, an Al-Ahram political analyst and the Constituent Assembly’s media spokesman, told parliamentary correspondents Sunday that “it is highly expected that the assembly’s executive office will resort to filing a counter appeal with the High Administrative Court (HAC), asking that any expected dissolution order by the Administrative Court be overturned.” This will delay delivering a final verdict on the assembly for at least one week.
The hostile campaign of FJP officials against the judiciary triggered sharp reactions from several non-Islamist political forces. Sameh Ashour, chairman of the Lawyers' Syndicate and one of several members who opted to boycott the Constituent Assembly’s activities, said that: “Recent announcements against judicial orders reflect a high sense of arrogance among FJP officials.”
Ashour argued that “when the first Constituent Assembly was dissolved last April on grounds of Islamists dominating its ranks, FJP officials rallied to form the second assembly in the same wrong way, ensuring that they and Salafists retain the majority again.”
“For this reason,” said Ashour, “it is expected that the Administrative Court will order that the second assembly be dissolved and a new balanced one reflecting the spectrum of Egypt’s political forces be formed.”
Ashour accused FJP officials of circumventing judicial orders. “Instead of admitting their mistakes, they opted to open fire on the judiciary,” said Ashour, arguing that “the Muslim Brotherhood proved to be far worse than the Mubarak regime in reacting to judicial orders.”
Most liberal and leftist political parties decided to boycott the Constituent Assembly’s activities, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of manipulating its activities.
In a bid to retain its upper hand, the Muslim Brotherhood has mobilised thousands of its supporters in Tahrir Square in recent days in protest at any judicial orders that might invalidate the Constituent Assembly. Protesters also cried foul over the 17 June addendum to the Constitutional Declaration, demanding it be revoked and that the SCAF (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) not be permitted to take charge of forming a new assembly. Protesters are calling on newly-elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi to exercise his powers, including in forming a new assembly.
For their part, SCAF officials emphasised this week that “if the assembly is dissolved, the SCAF would be automatically authorised to form a new one.” Mamdouh Shahin, the SCAF’s legal adviser, indicated on 13 July that the SCAF had full rights to form an assembly. In a meeting held on 28 April, the SCAF and different political forces reached an agreement on the formation of an assembly, only to be ignored later by the Muslim Brotherhood’s FJP. The Islamist-dominated two houses of parliament — the People’s Assembly and Shura Council — opted to meet on 12 June to form an assembly that was boycotted by most political forces.
Islamists believe that if the assembly is dissolved again and the SCAF takes charge of forming a new one, it would represent a blow to President Morsi’s legitimacy and to their influence in political life. According to El-Beltagi, “We will never allow any force to turn Morsi into a figurehead president; he must fully exercise his presidential powers.”
A SCAF statement warned last week that it expects that "all state authorities respect the addendum to the Constitutional Declaration.” SCAF chairman Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi also underlined today that “the Egyptian army will not allow any single force to dominate political life.”