Egypt's Constituent Assembly holds press conference to combat 'opposition lies'

Ahram Online, Friday 14 Dec 2012

Constituent Assembly members slam opposition saying they are propagating lies in defense of new constitution

The constitution-drafting body held a press conference on Friday, one day before the constitutional referendum, to combat what they described as "lies propagated by the opposition."

The Constituent Assembly and Wasat Party member Abul-Ela Mady was the first to speak, saying that members of the assembly were the "real representatives of the people," slamming opposition figures who claim the new constitution as an "isolated elite" document.

According to Mady, people now condemning the assembly took part in forming it through consensus and had already agreed on more than 90 per cent of the constitution draft before withdrawing. He confirmed that assembly members have frequently tried to engage in dialogue.

The assembly member claimed that the opposition has been spreading lies about the content of the new constitution.

"They said the wages are not linked to prices but this constitution was the first to ever set a minimum and maximum wage for the public sector," he stated.

"They also say that the constitution gives the president too much power although the authority given to the president in the new constitution is 40 per cent less than the old one," he added.

Mady further attacked the 'No' campaign advertisements saying that health care is only provided to "incapable" citizens, referring to those who can prove they cannot afford paying for their health care. He said that the constitution guarantees health insurance to all citizens.

He also insisted that the new constitution does not lack Human Rights, as claimed by many oppositionists. Mady said the constitution does not say citizens can be detained for 12 hours pending investigation, saying that "citizens need to be released within 12 hours unless a reason is found for their detention."

"May God curse those who lie; may this be them [the opposition] or us [assembly members]," he finally stated.

Member of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and Constituent Assembly, Amr Darrag said he was shocked by the "organized campaign against Egypt's Constituent Assembly," adding it was all "based on lies."

"The assembly is calling on opposition to put their political differences aside and refrain from ruining the constitution project," he said.

"They claim the assembly is dominated by one political trend although it is representative of all society," he added.

Darrag refuted claims that the constitution allows child labour and that it allows citizens to be tried in front of military courts.

"We call on the opposition to be fair and honest in their criticism," he said.

Minister of Judicial Affairs and assembly member, Mohamed Mahsoub also claimed the opposition are referencing content not actually present in constitution in order to attack it.

"These people have not read the new constitution," Mahsoub criticized the opposition.

Mahsoub urged citizens to go vote, whether approving the constitution or rejecting it, adding that the "constitution is not sacred."   

"If people say 'yes' they will be accepting the efforts put in drafting this constitution. If they say 'no' [to the constitution] a new assembly will be elected through direct voting; ballot boxes should have the final say not demonstrations," he said.

The FJP's Mohamed El-Beltagy questioned during the press conference the sources of funding behind the 'No' campaign, adding that it must have cost millions since it is very wide spread.  

"When [Head of Constitution Party Mohamed] ElBaradei says that the constitution is null no matter what the result is…this is very dangerous," Beltagy complained, referring to ElBaradei's interview on Al-Nahar satellite channel on Thursday, where he argued that the referendum was illegitimate.

"Do they prefer the language of pellet guns, Molotov cocktails, and live ammunition? When political forces say that the constitution is null no matter what is the result, can they tell us what is the alternative?" Beltagy exclaimed.

Opposition forces have been calling for the cancellation of the constitutional referendum and the formation of a consensual constituent assembly. The constitution-drafting body had been condemned as unrepresentative and had experienced mass withdrawals, leaving assembly members mostly from Islamist parties to finalize the new constitution.

Opposition forces have been holding mass demonstrations for two weeks in a row, with hundreds of thousands taking the streets, protesting President Mohamed Morsi's recent decisions and the new draft constitution.

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