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Socialist Popular Alliance drops out of Egypt's Constituent Assembly

The Socialist Popular Alliance Party offers detailed alternatives to Egypt's non-inclusive and 'oppressive' draft consitution

Ekram Ibrahim , Sunday 18 Nov 2012
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The Socialist Popular Alliance adds itself to the list of parties whose members walked out of the Constituent Assembly [WHEN] to object to the overwhelming religious character of the constitution drafting body.

While the SPA praises the fact that the constitution draft addresses issues not mentioned in Egypt's latest 1971 constitution - such as proper housing, access to water, freedom to access information and the right to labour strikes - it objects on many other fronts.

The party describes the proposed constitution as another tool against Egypt’s January 25 Revolution, charging that the values it pursues are different from those called upon by the revolution.

"While the revolution called for ‘social justice, freedom and dignity,’ the proposed constitution enforces religious laws that hinder women and personal rights," Emad Attia, Socialist Popular Alliance member, told Ahram Online.

The draft articles as they are now, states the SPA, "reinstate oppression, tighten freedoms, religious homogeneity and a pro-authoritative regime."

After disengaging from the Constituent Assembly, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party made its own proposals for both amending and adding articles to the draft constitution.

Religion

The party objects to the articles that make top clerics of Al-Azhar (the Sunni Muslim world's authority based in Cairo) as arbiters on constitutional matters, as some Salafists demand.

On religion and personal freedoms, the SPA proposes to change article 39 from: "Freedom of belief is guaranteed. The state guarantees the freedom to establish houses of worship for divine religions in accordance to law 2," to:

"Freedom of belief and practicing religious rituals is guaranteed. The state guarantees the freedom to establish houses of worship in a manner to be governed by law."

Freedom of belief was guaranteed in Egypt’s latest constitution of 1971. It was also guaranteed through article 18 of the International Declaration of Human Rights, to which Egypt is a signatory.

International agreements

For the sake of freedom and many more, the Socialist Popular Alliance proposes to add an article that ensures that Egypt abide by international laws and international agreements.

Specifically, the alliance requests that the constitution include: "The state is responsible for applying the agreements that the Egyptian government has signed in the areas of political, civil, social and cultural rights."

Right to association

Article 47 "Citizens shall have the right to arrange public meetings, processions and peaceful and unarmed demonstrations. The law governs the manner in which notification must be made. The right to hold private meetings without prior notice is guaranteed. Security personnel may not attend such meetings."

The proposal also spells out that the state is obligated to protect the people, as well.

Balance of powers

The SPA also objects to the "lack of real guarantees" regarding the independence of the judiciary branch from the executive authority.

They claim the draft constitution releases future parliamentary elections from monitoring by the High Constitutional Court.

In essence, the SPA says the Assembly gives itself the right to interfere in the not-yet drafted elections law, which is still to be passed by the next elected parliament. 

Furthermore, the SPA says the military institution receives "dangerous privileges," which they consider the draft constitution's biggest flaw.

Inclusiveness

The draft constitution fails to represent Egyptian society, the SPA charges, and only mirrors the religious character imposed by the Assembly's religious figures, Mona Ezzat, member of the SPA explained to Ahram Online.

"The Constituent Assembly is dominated by the authoritarian political Islamic waves, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists and they distribute the roles amongst themselves," Ezzat said.

Several lawsuits are challenging the legal standing of the Constituent Assembly after the HCC rendered the People's Assembly (the body that chose members of the constitution drafting committee) unconstitutional in June. 

With the fate of the Constituent Assembly up in the air, the fate of the draft constitution is also unknown.

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