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Secularists to dominate Egypt's final constitution-drafting process

Representatives of secular forces are expected to dominate the 50-member committee entrusted with writing the final draft of Egypt's new constitution

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 26 Aug 2013
adly mansour
Egyptian Presidency, Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour makes his first address to the nation since taking his post after the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, in Cairo, Egypt July 18, 2013 (Photo: AP)
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The first stage of Egypt's post-30 June political roadmap was completed on Monday. A ten-member technical committee entrusted with amending the 2012 Islamist-backed constitution passed its draft to interim President Adly Mansour.

The committee was formed in accordance with Article 28 of the constitutional declaration issued by Mansour on 8 July, after Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was ousted from office on 3 July.

The second stage is expected to begin within days, with President Mansour issuing a decree forming a 50-member committee representing all segments of society to write the final draft of Egypt's new constitution.

According to Article 29 of the 8 July declaration, the 50-member committee must include representatives of political parties, intellectuals, workers, farmers, unionists, and national councils.

It must also be composed of representatives of Al-Azhar, Egyptian Churches, the armed forces, police, public figures and at least ten figures representing youth and women.

Informed sources close to the ten-member technical committee revealed to Ahram Online that: "The presidency has already received the names nominated by political, religious, social and economic institutions to form the 50-member committee."

The lists show that secular forces are slated to gain a majority in the 50-member committee entrusted with completing the constitution before it is put to a national referendum.

Islamists, who dominated the 100-member constituent assembly that drafted Egypt's 2012 constitution, will be a minority.

The secularists will primarily belong to liberal and leftist (Nasserist and nationalist) factions. Islamist representatives will be confined to two forces: the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party and Al-Azhar.

The initial list of the secularist representatives will include liberals such as former foreign minister Amr Moussa, Journalists' Syndicate leader and Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies director Diaa Rashwan, and leftists such as Sameh Ashour, Lawyers' Syndicate chairman and chairman of the Arab Nasserist Party.

The list will also include Mahmoud Badr and Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, liberals representing the Tamarod movement which spearheaded the 30 June protests against Morsi.

Liberals will include Manal El-Taibi, a female political and human rights activist who withdrew from the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly in 2012 because she objected to articles imposing a strict Islamic code and violating the rights of women and children.

Liberals are also expected to include high-profile constitutional law professor Mohamed Nour Farahat, representing the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.

At the top of the list of leftist members is Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, representing the Socialist Popular Current and Tagammu.

Informed sources told Ahram Online that the presidency stipulated that lawyers', journalists', doctors' and engineers' syndicates should send one representative each.

The Engineers' Syndicate is currently controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, and it is unclear how its representative will be chosen, given that the Islamic group has been opposing the ongoing roadmap in continued protests against Morsi's overthrow.

As for religious institutions, sources indicated that Hassan Al-Shafie, deputy to Al-Azhar's grand imam, is likely to represent Al-Azhar. Another figure representing Al-Azhar is expected to join the committee.

Informed sources also indicated that figures representing Egypt's three main Churches (Coptic, Anglican and Catholic) will be selected as members of the committee. Anpa Pola, archbishop of the Nile Delta’s Tanta province, will represent the Coptic Church, while priest Safwat El-Biyadi is expected to represent the Anglican Church.

Major-General Mamdouh Shahin is expected to represent the armed forces, although several political activists accuse him of collaborating with Islamists while drafting the 2012 constitution.

The controversial Article 219

Nour Party will have just one representative who is expected to be party chairman Younis Makhyoun. Nour announced on Sunday that it would join the 50-member committee. 

In a statement issued on 25 August, Nour said it had decided to participate in order to defend the Islamic identity of Egypt. It added that it is against eliminating Article 219 of the 2012 constitution which defines the "principles" of Islamic Sharia referenced in Article 2. "This article (219) is necessary to reinforce Sunni Islam and stem the growth of Shiism in Egypt," said the statement.

Nour complained that "the ten-member technical committee which took charge of amending the 2012 constitution was by no means an elected body. How can an unelected body bear the responsibility of drafting Egypt's new constitution?"

Nour's statement was sharply criticised by secular forces. Prominent lawyer Essam El-Islambouli said: "Nour is by no means authorised to give a judgement on the ten-member technical committee... Let's recall that most constitution-drafting committees formed since the January 25 Revolution in 2011 were by no means elected."

"The Nour Party itself, under the Morsi regime, called for forming a committee to amend the 2012 constitution," he added.

El-Islambouli also said: "Article 219 is a mean of delivering an interpretation of Islamic Sharia but it rather helps Islamists impose a strict form of Islam on Egyptians."

Secular political activists, he added, believe "Nour's decision to join the 50-member committee is just a tactic."

Tamarod's Badr said: "We believe this Islamist party will eventually withdraw from the committee when it finds that most forces are in favour of removing Article 219. It will then exploit this withdrawal to stigmatise the new constitution as reflecting secular and anti-Islam values."

The Freedom and Justice Party newspaper – the mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood – came out on Sunday, alleging that: "The new constitution will give liberals and secularists the right to insult Islam and spread immorality."

Injy Hamdi, a founding member of the April 6 Movement, on Monday asked: "How can a religious party whose members refuse to stand up while the national anthem is playing, incite violence against Shias, and support codifying the marriage of children, be allowed to join the constitution-drafting process?"

Badr said: "Secularists and revolutionaries will never allow Islamist forces – such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Nour – to impose their medieval viewpoints on the new constitution."

El-Islambouli argued that: "With the exception of Article 2, which states that Islamic Sharia is the major source of legislation in Egypt, all other Islamic Sharia articles must be removed because they aim to impose a strict Islamic code on Egypt."

He noted that: "Al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, never asked the Morsi regime for an article delivering an interpretation of Islamic Sharia.”

He added: "The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar himself stressed many times that Al-Azhar is not interested in drafting any articles that give an interpretation of Islamic Sharia or even that grant its council of grand clerics a final say on Islamic Sharia matters."

Al-Azhar stressed that the Supreme Constitutional Court must be left to deliver the final say on Islamic Sharia issues.

The ten-member technical committee decided to cut Article 4 short, stripping Al-Azhar's council of grand clerics the right to have a say on Islamic Sharia issues.

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27-08-2013 10:52am
The real Majority - youth & women - 50-50-50
We are missing a huge opportunity for the future of Egypt. This draft should have had input in its final stages by the real majority. More than 50 percent of the country are under 30. Also 50 percent of the country are women. They ARE the future. They should decide it. Perhaps even create a single progressive party. This is just my opinion. Someone who is a little over 50 ! T
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27-08-2013 10:20am
imposing value
The secularists are imposing their values upon Islamists in the new constitution. For them, it is wrong for Islamists to impose others, but it is OK for secularists to impose others. Since, they could not win election, just go by the bullets and the tanks. History will curse this secular fascism.
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27-08-2013 08:41am
Why Why Why?
My ONLY wish as a COPTIC CHRISTIAN is that one EGYPT will be a place where we ALL can gather to trace our ROOTS. My children may not ever be able to visit their ancestral past and to my MUSLIM and CHRISTIAN brothers please be mindful that we are all HUMAN beings that have the same BLOOD that runs in our veins. Religion should not dictate nor divide a nation such as Egypt and we have the potential to resurrect what was once a "MUST SEE" destination. I pray that this is the begining of the END of the fighting. AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE OH OH OH!!!!
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27-08-2013 06:49am
Izzat Ayyoub, University of Cairo
TH says 30 million turned out in support of the fascist coup: how do you know? Did you count them? Every expert in the world, including google, says the numbers were far less than a million. Besides, if 30 million people did turn out, which is a big lie, why didn't the military regime order a snap election. The truth of the matter is that they knew the Ikhwan would win and win nd win. The photoshop fabrications wouldn't work at the ballot boxes.
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26-08-2013 11:38pm
military constitution
it is not people 's constitution but of military and backed by Israel and usa
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Ramy the Egyptian
26-08-2013 11:07pm
Very Good News
Finally we will have a decent constitution, written by decent and respectable people! Unlike the other terrorist assembly. Maybe this one wasn't elected, but it certainly represents the people and their will.
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27-08-2013 01:19pm
Military backed constitution
How can it be represantive for the Egyptian people if the constitution isnt elected? This sounds a contradiction, isnt it?
Liaquat Syed
27-08-2013 01:30am
Is this a joke
Not elected but representating people??. These are decent and respectable and whoever is elected is terrorist

Hani HasabaLLAH
26-08-2013 09:10pm
This is a rape of democracy, people who failed to win any votes constitute the majority, and people who got the majority in the elections are excluded. If this is not fascism, then what is fascism?
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27-08-2013 12:20am
Lets build a better Egypt, for EVERYONE
Hani, Fascisim is when the people are powerless in front of an unfair ruler. Hitler and Mussolini come to mind. In Egypt, 30 million + went into the street to demand overthrow of the unsuccessful regime. That number is much higher than the "majority" that elected Morsi. Democracy IS working. Instead of continuing to divide, lets make sure the next government represents the interests of everyone. No group should impose their views on others and no religion should subjugate others. You are obviously an educated man so work towards a cohesive , united, prosperous Egypt. pt

26-08-2013 09:03pm
A constitution that is null and void
the vital question is: who elected these people? The answer is: the armed forces, not the people of Egypt. Hence, the new constitution is null and void.
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28-08-2013 12:12pm
Do not compare Germany or Japan to Egypt
Those who wrote the constitution in Germany or Japan had their country's interest in their mind. Do you believe Mors
27-08-2013 10:34am
The constitution of Germany was formed by an assembly that was not elected and it formulated one of the best constitutions in the world! Freedom, human rights and liberties, protection from state institutions - all of that and more was incorporated. Just because such an assembly was not fromed through the ballot box does not make it undemocratic. It´s the CONTENT that counts!
27-08-2013 08:55am
I agree with your comments
27-08-2013 07:43am
Hardly null and void
George, the constitution in process is hardly null and void. Millions wanted Morsi out and the Army obliged. For this Egyptians should be thankful. In fact, more Egyptians wanted Morsi out than voted for him. Are you aware of that? Are you aware that Morsi shoved his special constitution down the throat of Egyptians knowing it was a problem. Why do you think he promised that he would amend the constitution when trying to get it to a referendum? You need to think about what legality, justice, and participatory politics are about before reaching conclusions. Please show some good faith.
Abboud Jon Jamal, Cairo
26-08-2013 10:48pm
Ilegitimate but....
I think the military-backed government knows it is illigiti,ate. But, nonetheless, it wants to try its lucks.

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