Islamists reserve 65 seats on 100-member Constituent Assembly

Gamal Essam El-Din, Monday 26 Mar 2012

Islamist forces appear set to dominate the assembly tasked with writing Egypt's new constitution


The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting Egypt's post-January 25 Revolution constitution will be held Wednesday to prepare the main guidelines of its business in the coming weeks. The meeting, which will be headed by speaker of the People's Assembly Saad El-Katatni, will elect a chairman and two deputies and divide the assembly into committees, to each one of which will be entrusted with drafting a certain chapter of the constitution, and clarify the procedures necessary to reach consensus on a final draft.

Meanwhile, preliminary analysis of the make-up of the Constituent Assembly shows that Islamists occupy almost 65 per cent of its seats.

Initial figures show that the assembly includes 36 Islamist parliamentarians (25 from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party —FJP — and 11 from the Salafist El-Nour Party) out of a total 50 MPs.

This is not to mention that a number of independent and party-based  MPs in the assembly are partners with the FJP, such as Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat (chairman of the liberal Reform and Development Party and head of the Human Rights Committee in the People's Assembly), Mahmoud El-Khodeiri (chairman of the People's Assembly's Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee), Essam Sultan, deputy chairman of the Islamist Wasat Party, and Nagi El-Shehabi, chairman of the Geel (Generation) Party and a member of the Shura Council.

More than 25 of the 50 non-parliamentarians in the Constituent Assembly also hail from Islamist forces. Some of these are FJP members and chairpersons of professional syndicates, such as Mohamed Abdel-Gawad, chairman of the Pharmacists' Syndicate; Maged Khilousi, FJP, and and chairman of the Engineers' Syndicate; and Mamdoujh El-Walli, chairman of the Journalists' Syndicate. The list of Islamist non-parliamentarians also includes religious clerics from A-Azhar, FJP members and chairmen of Egyptian expatriates in the Arab Gulf countries and in Europe; and even even some students and public figures such as Mohamed El-Rakybi, and Nader Bakar, media spokesman of El-Nour Party.

The dominant position of Islamists in the Constituent Assembly led many secular forces to cry foul, with some liberal parties urging their leadership to boycott the Constituent Assembly. Of these are the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Free Egyptians Party and the Wafd Party. Although the three parties have representatives in the Constituent Assembly, their leaderships face tremendous pressure to withdraw. Mostafa El-Naggar, an MP and chairman of Al-Adl (Justice) Party also asked liberals to boycott “the assembly of the Islamists.”

Other independent liberal MPs, such as Amr El-Shobaki, an Ahram political analyst, Amr Hamzawy, a political science professor, and Ahmed Said, chairman of the Free Egyptians Party, have refrained from announcing any intention of withdrawing from the assembly.

Ashraf Thabet, deputy parliamentary speaker and a MP for the Salafist El-Nour Party, argued that “We have high hopes that no one will withdraw from the Constituent Assembly because it really represents all political, religious and social sectors and what is important is the writing of the constitution rather than the make-up of the Constituent Assembly.”

“What is important is to make sure that the new constitution expresses the will of the vast majority of Egyptians in democracy and social justice rather than bother about personal differences over the make-up of the Constituent Assembly,” added Thabet.

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