Speaker of Parliament Saad El-Katatni (Photo: AP)
Saad El-Katatni, speaker of parliament, denied rumours on Thursday that proposals for a draft law setting standards for the constituent assembly composition have been submitted to Egypt's People's Assembly.
Instead Katatni asked Mahmoud El-Khodeiry, head of the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, to conduct sessions with representatives from all sections of Egyptian society to reach a consensus on the method chosen to elect members of the constitutional-building body.
El-Khodeiry was asked to meet with political parties, religious and social institutions, civil society groups, syndicates and unions, representatives from different social classes and sects as well as political and ideological groups and constitutional law professors.
Katatni highlighted the importance of gathering these opinions on the make-up of the assembly, before discussing the issue in the People's Assembly, in order to ensure they draft a constitution that represents all of Egypt's sects, classes and ideologies.
Katatni's request to El-Khodeiry came after the Administrative Court ruled in favour of a recent lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of the formation of the 100-member constituent assembly last week. The body tasked with writing the constitution was subsequently suspended.
This action was also in compliance with Article 60 of the Constitutional Declaration, issued by Egypt's ruling military council in March 2011, that states that the assembly will be made up of 100 members, elected by both houses of parliament.
During Wednesday's afternoon session, Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) MPs launched a scathing attack on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and Egypt's leading Islamic authority Al-Azhar, saying they should not be allowed to usurp parliament's right to select the constituent assembly.
These attacks came after Al-Azhar officials said they would help find common ground among political forces on the assembly's formation and after a 16 April meeting between de facto leader Field Marshall Tantawi and the parliamentary political parties.
The Islamist MPs comments were also in response to SCAF's advisory council calling for Article 60, which implies that parliament elect members to the assembly, be amended in favour of a new one with clear-cut rules.
The beleaguered constituent assembly has faced many problems since its launch.
Within days of the official membership list being announced, there was a mass walkout of members from the liberal and leftist parties, independent prominent figures and representatives of the unions and syndicates as well as Egypt's main Islamic authority, Al-Azhar, and the Coptic Church.
All objected to the Islamist majority in the assembly and the method used to chose its members, which saw 50 people elected from parliament and 50 non-parliamentarians. Many added that it did not reflect the diversity of Egyptian society.
The Islamists represented more than 65 per cent of the assembly's 100 members, with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Nour Party winning the largest proportions of seats.