Dozens turn out for Wednesday march against Egypt's constituent assembly

Nada Hussein Rashwan, Wednesday 28 Mar 2012

Wednesday's planned march on parliament to protest 'Islamist domination' of constitution-drafting body fails to attract large number of supporters

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A protester carrying a sign in Arabic saying "No to the 50 per cent [domination] of constitution drafting. Yes to [a constitution if for] all" in Wednesday's march on Parliament (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Dozens of protesters turned out for a march on Egypt’s parliament building on Wednesday to protest the perceived domination of the recently-formed constituent assembly – tasked with drafting a new constitution – by Islamist parties.

The march was organised by the 6 April Youth Movement (Democratic Front) and the Youth for Justice and Freedom movement.

Protesters carried banners demanding equal representation for all segments of Egyptian society in the constitution-drafting process. One large banner held aloft by marchers featured pictures of protesters killed in clashes with military personnel late last year.

The final list of the 100 constituent assembly members, which included 65 Islamists and only six women, sparked an uproar among liberal and leftist circles. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Salafist Nour Party, which also dominate Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliament, hold the largest number of seats in the assembly, leading to charges by their political rivals that the assembly does not represent all segments of Egyptian society.

Marchers set out from Cairo’s Tahrir Square at about 1:45pm en route to the nearby parliament building on Qasr Al-Aini Street. Demonstrators made their way through narrow side streets in order to circumvent the concrete walls built by the military to block access to the street.

Marchers shouted chants against both the Muslim Brotherhood – which they accused of “betraying” Egypt’s revolution – and the ruling military council. They also shouted "Down, down with military rule," which has become a staple slogan in recent street demonstrations.

"They were elected by the mosques, not the people," said Salha Abdel-Qader, protest participant and single mother of four, in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose FJP swept last year’s parliamentary elections.

"The constitution should represent all sectors and currents of society,” said Mohamed Zakaria, 6 April member and organiser of Wednesday’s march. “Dictatorship cannot be imposed on the people again. The country should no longer be run by a single political orientation, in which the people are taken out of the equation."

Within the past 72 hours, over 20 non-Islamist figures have announced their withdrawal from the constituent assembly to protest what they describe as “Islamist domination” of the constitution-drafting body.

For his part, leading FJP member and elected MP Mohamed El-Beltagi said Tuesday night that his party was prepared to replace some party members in the assembly with non-Islamist figures. He also said that the party should open talks with resigned assembly members in hopes of convincing them to reconsider their decision.

Egypt’s constituent assembly held its first meeting on Wednesday despite the spate of recent resignations and the wave of criticism against it among liberal and leftist circles.

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