Egypt's 'National Front' agrees on new criteria for constituent assembly membership

Ahram Online, Sunday 22 Apr 2012

The National Front, formed by resignees from Egypt's constituent assembly, says revamped constitution-drafting body should exclude sitting MPs

The "National Front," established by members of Egypt's constituent assembly who resigned last month to protest what they saw as the assembly's "unrepresentative" composition, met Friday at the liberal Wafd Party's headquarters where they agreed on criteria for selecting new assembly members. The constituent assembly has been tasked with drafting Egypt's first post-revolution national charter. 

Front members demanded that the assembly exclude sitting MPs and better represent all segments of Egyptian society. It also agreed to discuss proposed new criteria for assembly membership with Egypt's ruling military council on 3 May instead of 26 April as had been planned earlier.

Last week, parliament speaker Mohamed Saad El-Katatni denied rumours that proposed legislation setting new criteria for the assembly's composition had been submitted to the People's Assembly (the lower house of Egypt's parliament).

El-Katatni reportedly asked Mahmoud El-Khodeiry, head of parliament's legislative and constitutional affairs committee, to meet with representatives of all political orientations so as to forge a consensus on methods to be used for selecting members of the revamped assembly.

El-Katatni highlighted the importance of hearing different views on the assembly's composition in advance of parliamentary debate on the issue.

During an 18 April parliamentary session, Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) MPs launched a scathing attack on the ruling military council and Al-Azhar, Egypt's leading Islamic authority, stating that the two institutions should not be permitted to usurp parliament's right to select assembly members.

The attacks came after Al-Azhar officials said they hoped to find common ground among various political forces on the reformulation of the assembly following a 16 April meeting between military council head Field Marsha Hussein Tantawi and political party representatives.

The comments by Islamist MPs were also in response to calls by the military council's advisory council for the amendment of Article 60 of last year's constitutional declaration, which states that assembly members should be selected by parliament. The constitutional declaration was issued by the military council in March of last year following approval via popular referendum.

Since its inception earlier this year, the constituent assembly has faced a host of problems.

Days after the assembly's official membership was announced, it saw a spate of resignations by liberal, leftist and independent members, union representatives and representatives of Al-Azhar and Egypt's Coptic Church. Those who resigned had voiced objection to the assembly's Islamist majority and the methods used to select assembly members, half of whom were drawn from parliament and half of whom were non-parliamentarians.

Islamist figures had accounted for more than 65 per cent of the 100-member assembly, with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Nour Party holding the largest proportion of seats.

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