Egypt's Constituent Assembly unveiled amid fears over Islamist dominance

Sherif Tarek and Hatem Maher, Wednesday 13 Jun 2012

A number of political parties have withdrawn from the 100-member assembly over concerns of Islamist monopolisation of seats, in a repeat of events from earlier this year

constituent assembly
A general view of the two chambers of parliament meeting to elect the 100 members of the constituent assembly in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)

The members of the 100-seat Constituent Assembly have been officially revealed late on Tuesday amid new objections over apparent Islamist monopolisation of seats, the same concern that postponed the formation of the body tasked with drafting Egypt's new constitution in March.

"We finally have a Constituent Assembly that represents all factions of the Egyptian people," Parliament speaker Mohamed Saad El-Katatni stated during a news conference.

From the 100 seats, 18 have been allocated to Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) – which comprises nearly half of the parliament – 12 for the Salafist Nour Party and three for the moderate Wasat Party.

Other prominent Islamist figures were also selected, including renowned Salafist preacher Yasser El-Borhamy and Al-Azhar sheikh and former grand mufti of Egypt Nasr Farid Wassel.

The Constituent Assembly was unveiled after a joint session of the Shura Council and People's Assembly (the upper and lower houses of parliament). The session saw party representatives and independent MPs walk out, in objection to the perceived monopolisation of the constitution-drafting process by Islamist parties.

A total of 57 MPs reportedly withdrew from Tuesday's joint session to register their dissatisfaction with the situation.

These included representatives of the Wafd Party, the 'Egyptian Bloc' partiesthe 'Revolution Continues' bloc, the Hurriyah Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Egyptian-Arabic Union Party, the Egyptian Citizen Party and the liberal Wafd Party, along with several independent MPs.

Figures absence

The list did not include several prominent figures, such as former presidential candidates Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh and Hamdeen Sabbahi, Nobel prize laureates Mohamed ElBaradei and Ahmed Zewail and famous Egyptian-American scientist Farouk El-Baz.

"There are three reasons for my refusal to be included in the assembly," commented Wael Ghoneim, the political activist who set up a famous Facebook page (We Are All Khaled Said) which played a key role in organizing mass protests in last year's uprising.

"They ignored the criteria of experience while choosing the members, ignored women and youth representation [7 members each] and ignored many public figures," he added.

Liberal and independent MP Amr Hamzawy, who also walked out of preliminary discussions over the assembly formation, added: "They [the Islamists] are repeating the same mistakes again. I completely refuse to take part in a process whereby the domination of a certain faction would be protected by law." 

In a statement issued on Tuesday before the news conference, Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya said that those who withdrew must reconsider their position.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had earlier said an amended edition of the suspended 1971 constitution will be in effect should the parliament fail to form an assembly.  

"Some parties that are considered to be from the liberal and socialist currents withdrew from the assembly, citing the percentage allocated to the FJP and the Nour Party," read Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya's statement.

"They justified their decision [by saying] that the Islamist current did not abide by the agreement [over the constituent assembly], which was reached with the attendance of the military council.

"It was very clear that the shares of the Freedom and Justice Party and the Nour Party are up to 50 per cent [of the seats allocated for MPs], and that does not include the percentage of Building and Development Party…Those who withdrew from the assembly did not have good reason to do so."

Ahmed Ziad Bahaeddin, a representative of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said in a press statement that party representatives had withdrawn because the parliament majority – led by the FJP and the Nour Party – had continued to disregard suggestions by liberal and leftist parties to form an assembly that was representative of all sections of Egyptian society.

Egypt's High Constitutional Court also declared on Tuesday that it was withdrawing its representative from the Constituent Assembly, citing the absence of national consensus on assembly membership and its own desire to avoid becoming embroiled in political disputes. 

The parties' withdrawal on Tuesday follows a similar move by six other parties, who walked out of the assembly earlier in objection to the low representation of women, youth and Christians, and to the perceived Islamist efforts to dominate the assembly.

In March, a similar situation occurred whereby the list of assembly members selected by parliament included 66 Islamists. Non-Islamist assembly members staged a mass walkout shortly afterward. In early April, the assembly was formally dissolved, following a ruling to this effect by Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court.

"The formation of the Constituent Assembly was put off much later than planned due to circumstances that were out of our hands," El-Katatni stated.

Among the well-known non-Islamist public figures that have made the new list of members are former presidential candidate and ex- secretary general of Arab League Amr Moussa, and Bishop Paul, a representative of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) member Major Mamdouh Shaheen is also included.

Ahmed Maher, the founder of the April 6 Youth Movement, is the most prominent assembly member from the youth revolutionary groups.

Brotherhood leaders Sobhi Saleh and Essam El-Erian are also members, as are Emad El-Din Abdul Ghafur and Nader Bakar, the Nour Party chairman and spokesman respectively.

The Assembly consists of 9 constitutional experts, 6 judicial officials, 5 from Al-Azhar, 4 from Egyptian churches, 7 professional syndicates' heads, 4 representatives of labour and farmers, 33 MPs from political parties, 3 representatives of the executive authority (Armed Forces, the Police and the government), 29 public figures and youth, 4 political parties chairman, 7 representatives of women, 7 representatives of the uprising and the injured, 10 Islamic figures (including those from Al-Azhar), 8 representing the Copts, 28 legal experts, 10 thinkers and writers, 30 university professors, 4 representatives of the labour syndicates, one representatives of the foreign-based Egyptians.   

To check the whole 100 members of the consistent assembly with their titles, please click here.

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