Broad satisfaction over Constituent Assembly deal

Ahram Online, Saturday 9 Jun 2012

After a two-month deadlock, political parties reach a preliminary consensus on the makeup of Egypt's constitution-drafting body

Constituent Assembly
Egyptian parliament members elect now-defunct constituent assembly in March(Photo:AP)

Prominent political figures expressed satisfaction at Thursday's agreement on the composition of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting Egypt's new constitution.

The drafting process had ground to a halt for two months due to disagreement on the assembly's membership.  

The liberal Free Egyptians Party, known for its vocal criticism of Islamist groups, said Friday that the party was optimistic that a consensus had been reached over the assembly's membership.

The moderate Islamist Wasat Party said it hoped the assembly would draft the constitution "in a balanced manner that encompasses the entire spectrum of society."

Amr Moussa, who came fifth in the presidential election first round, said the outcome of the negotiations was a positive step.

After nearly seven hours of heated negotiations Wednesday, it was agreed that 39 of the 100 seats on the assembly would be designated to political parties, of which the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) would hold 16; the Salafist El-Nour Party eight; the liberal Wafd Party five; the Free Egyptians Party two; the Egyptian Social Democratic Party two; and one each for the moderate-Islamist Wasat Party, the Nasserist Karama Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the liberal Reform and Development Party and the Islamist Building and Development Party.

It was also agreed that 15 judges, nine religious figures — five from Al-Azhar and four from Christian Churches — 10 public figures, 10 revolutionary youth (women and men), seven members of workers and farmers unions, seven members of professional syndicates, a representative from the police, another from the army and one from the Ministry of Justice, would sit on the assembly.

A 50-50 ratio of Islamist to non-Islamist members has been agreed upon, after difficult negotiations as the Islamist bloc first wanted to include 55 members relying on the fact that Islamists have secured nearly two thirds of Parliament seats in the elections.

Each constitution article would be approved by consensus, if not then by the approval of 67 members and if this ratio could not be obtained then the vote would be delayed for 48 hours, where the article would be passed by a 57-member majority.

After a meeting with MPs Tuesday (but without representatives of the FJP and or El-Nour Party), the military council said if no consensus was reached it would either issue an amended version of the March 2011 Constitutional Declaration or revive the 1971 constitution.

MPs who attended the meeting with the military council said they would negotiate with parties that had not attended in order to reach an agreement before Thursday.

Liberal and leftist members withdrew from the constitution-drafting assembly in March, objecting to the large proportion of Islamist members it contained.

In April, Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court suspended the assembly because it had violated last year’s Constitutional Declaration.

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council, officially called upon both houses of parliament (the Peope's Assembly and Shura Council) to convene Tuesday to choose members of the Constituent Assembly.

Parliament speaker and FJP figure Mohamed Saad El-Katatni will be giving a statement Saturday morning. He is expected to give the FJP's response towards the Constituent Assembly agreement.

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