Egypt's opposition launches initiative for new 'non-partisan' Constituent Assembly

Osman El Sharnoubi, Wednesday 24 Oct 2012

Liberal, leftist political forces and rights organisations launch new campaign to dissolve the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly calling for a 'Constitution for All Egyptians'

Hamdeen Sabbahi
Former egyptian presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi is leading the effort (Photo: Reuters)
Egyptian Popular Current leader and former presidential contender Hamdeen Sabbahi joined representatives from Egypt's opposition groups and civil society organisations, to announce the launch of a national front defending a "constitution for all Egyptians" in a press conference late Tuesday.
The front’s aim, they asserted, is to push for a constitution that better represents Egypt's diverse society and expresses the spirit of last year's 18-day uprising. 
Egyptian Popular Current member and known journalist Hussein Abdel-Ghani read the statement which said that "national unity is a fundamental condition preceding the drawing up of a new constitution for Egypt, expressing the spirit, slogans and goals of the January 25 Revolution."
The statement stressed that the coming national charter must live up to the expectations of the Egyptian people for a national charter which guarantees human rights, private and public freedoms, safeguards equality and social justice and sets the framework for a modern democratic political system.
"The current constitutional entity’s lack of such conditions of unity and its flawed and unbalanced makeup calls for a national dialogue with clear mechanisms that guarantee its seriousness," the statement read.
The signatories’ expressed their rejection of the current draft constitution, saying it is greatly flawed and endangers the social and economic rights and freedoms of Egyptian citizens.
"After the publishing of the current draft we discovered that it is not expressive of Egypt or the revolution; we are stressing our rejection of the draft constitution as well as our rejection of the committee drafting it," Sabbahi asserted in his closing remarks.
He added that the draft constitution will entrench the huge income gap between poor and rich in Egypt and will not protect the rights and freedoms deserved by Egyptians if it is passes.
"Every graduate looking for work, every family provider hoping to safeguard his home and marry off his children they will take those rights from the constitution," Sabbahi maintained, insisting the current draft will expose the Egyptian citizen to more poverty, exploitation and degradation.
The incomplete draft constitution currently being drawn up is also under attack due to widespread accusations it is being written by Islamist forces.
Many have called for the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly tasked with writing the constitution, demanding it is replaced with a more balanced drafting body that reflects Egypt's diverse socio-political make up.
The front’s statement also criticised what it said was the presidential immunity granted by the current draft, which it said barred him from being questioned or held accountable.
The signatories included the Egyptian Popular Current, the Constitution Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Karama Party, the Egypt Freedom Party, the Nasserist Party, the Al-Adl Party, the Free Egyptians Party, the Egypt Party and the Egyptian Socialist Party.
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions, the Front for the Defense of Egyptian Women, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, the Kefeya Movement and others, also signed the document.
Prominent political figures, intellectuals, artists and other public personalities attended the event.
Speakers included Constitution Party deputy Ahmed El-Borai, Egypt Freedom Party head Amr Hamzawi, head of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions Kamal Abu-Eita, feminist activist Inas Mekawi, head of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights Hafez Abu-Seida, novelist Bahaa Taher and many others.
Political heavyweight and Constitution Party founder Mohamed ElBaradei left before the press conference, however, media secretary Kahled Dawood assured ElBaradei was present in the pre-conference meeting but had to leave due to a prior engagement.
ElBaradei was expected to be among the speakers.
Addressing the audience at the end, Sabbahi summarised the purpose and demands of the initiative.
"Our demand is a national one, it is not partisan, it does not involve class or ideology, it is the demand of a unifying Egyptian patriotism, the demand for a constitution for all Egyptians, not dominated by anyone nor excluding anyone," said Sabbahi. "Our rejection of the constitution is based on the absence of the economic and social rights of Egyptians."
Sabbahi also expressed the signatories’ refusal of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s invitation to meet with political groups and national figures Wednesday for an open discussion. 
"We reject dialogue without mechanisms which would guarantee results," he said, adding the front has no intention of permanently boycotting meetings with the president but they are refusing this discussion, "due to the lack of a clear agenda."
"If the president wants to reshape the Constituent Assembly then he should announce his intention to do so there can be dialogue," Sabbahi stipulated, adding that "dialogue loses meaning when it is closer to a public relations stunt than an actual attempt to engage national forces in decision-making."
Morsi had promised during his presidential bid to form a more balanced constituent assembly.
Sabbahi called on Constituent Assembly members who had rejected draft constitution articles to withdraw from the drafting body.
The Constituent Assembly faces the possibility of being dissolved because its members were selected by the People's Assembly (lower house of parliament) which was subsequently declared null and void by a court order last June.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Supreme Administrative Court referred the case to the High Constitutional Court who will determine the fate of the Constituent Assembly. 
Thousands of people took to the streets on Friday to protest against the composition of the assembly. The Constitution Party and the Egyptian Popular Current both participated alongside other groups and movements.
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