Broad satisfaction over Egypt's Constituent Assembly deal

Ahram Online, Sunday 10 Jun 2012

Political parties and personalities appear happy with the 50-50 Islamist/non-Islamist division of the body tasked with writing a new permanent constitution

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

Prominent political parties and figures expressed satisfaction at Thursday's agreement on the composition of the Constituent Assembly (CA) 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.  

During a press conference Saturday, Parliament Speaker Saad El-Katatni thanked all parties who contributed to the CA agreement, seeing it as an assurance of a mutual understanding that would work in the favour of the people's needs following the January 25 Revolution.

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 Al-Wasat Party also expressed optimism over the final agreement, saying that such positive steps could help bring a patriotic presidential candidate to power in the face of the former regime.

Both Al-Wasat and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party praised the Reform and Development Party for giving up two per cent of its share in the CA — a move that helped overcoming negotiation difficulties.

The Egyptian Social Democratic Party added that its withdrawal, along with other liberal parties, from the CA, in protest at the attempts of Islamists to dominate the body, is what saved the assembly from being imbalanced.

Liberal and leftist members withdrew from the constitution-drafting assembly in March.

Parliamentarian Mostafa El-Naggar expressed his content with the final agreement on his Twitter account, describing the agreement as "fair" and a "break of light in the darkness."

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 CA.

A 50-50 ratio of Islamist to non-Islamist members has been agreed upon after difficult negotiations where the Islamist bloc wanted to table 55 members, given that Islamists secured nearly two thirds of the seats in parliament in the November 2011 elections.

Each article of the constitution is to be approved by consensus; if no consensus is possible, then by approval of 67 members and if this ratio can not be obtained the vote will be delayed for 48 hours, whereafter the article can 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 ruling military council said that if no consensus on the CA was reached it would either issue an amended version of the March 2011 Constitutional Declaration or revive the 1971 constitution.

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

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

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