Egypt’s political opposition boycotted a debate on the draft constitution on Friday, one day before the second phase of the national charter’s referendum. The session, however, was held as planned.
The debate, designed to give opposition the chance to voice their reservations over the draft constitution, was held at the headquarters of the upper house of parliament (Shura Council).
The first row of seats, bearing stickers with the names of some prominent political figures including former presidential candidates Amr Moussa and Mohamed ElBaradei, was empty as the debate only featured members of the Islamist-led Constituent Assembly.
Egyptian journalist Khaled Salah, editor in chief of daily newspaper Youm Al-Sabea, was commissioned to convey the views of opposition to the Constituent Assembly members, who in turn made their case.
“We’ve sent official invitations to four members of the National Salvation Front: Mohamed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa, Hamdeen Sabbahi and El-Sayed El-Badawi,” Constituent Assembly general-secretary Amr Darrag said after opening the session.
“However, Moussa was the only one to reply in an official letter and say he would not attend. Sabbahi also phoned me to say he will not be present.”
The debate included discussions over some contentious articles, including health insurance, role of the judiciary and military trials for civilians.
Former Arab League chief Moussa, who came fifth in the presidential elections earlier this year, argued that it was useless to hold a debate since the constitution referendum had already started.
Opposition believes the first post-revolution draft constitution does not fulfill the aspirations of Egyptians, saying it disregards the rights of minorities, including Christians.
Islamists, on the other hand, deem the constitution essential to pave the way for a transition to democracy under President Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the influential Muslim Brotherhood group.
The first phase of Egypt's referendum took place on 15 December across 10 governorates, including Cairo. Unofficial final results of the first round show a 56.5 per cent approval for the draft charter, while 'no' votes reached 43.5 per cent.
The second phase of voting, which will be held on Saturday, includes the remaining 17 governorates.