Out in the cold?

April 6th, 2012

Liberals and leftists vow to continue their protests at the Islamist monopoly over drafting a new constitution – Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Khaled Dawoud, 29 March – 4 April 2012.

… El-Shobki, an expert at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, has long supported reconciliation between Egypt’s political Islamic groups, led by the Brotherhood, and its secular elite. He was among the few non- Islamist members of the constituent assembly elected during Saturday’s joint meeting of the People’s Assembly and Shura Council. 

Yet faced with the outcry over the final shape of the drafting assembly El-Shobki was among the 25 elected non-Islamist members who subsequently resigned.

“The Brotherhood left no room for compromise, and we did not have the chance to discuss anything at the joint meeting,” El-Shobki said … //

… Spokesmen for the Freedom and Justice and Nour Parties have repeatedly denied they have an automatic majority on the drafting committee, arguing that 49 per cent of members actually belong to the two parties.

“We cannot be blamed for the fact many of the public figures elected have Islamic sympathies and belong to the Islamic project,” Ahmed Abu Baraka, a leading member of the FJP who represented the group in front of the Administrative Court on Tuesday, argued disingenuously.

Abu Baraka’s main counter to El-Gamal, though, was to argue that the Administrative Court had no mandate to examine a decision taken by parliament. The judges had to suspend the session for three hours after anti-Muslim Brotherhood activists started chanting slogans against Abu Baraka while he was making his case. The court finally decided to rule on the case on 10 April.

On the same day at the Press Syndicate liberal and leftist MPs who had resigned from the constituent assembly held a news conference at which they announced they would form a parallel committee to draft a new constitution. MP Amr Hamzawy said the committee would include legal experts, women, Coptic Christians, trade unionists and public figures excluded by the Brotherhood because of their political views.

Head of the Bar Association Sameh Ashour, who also resigned from the constituent assembly, openly appealed to SCAF to dissolve the assembly and demanded that the Supreme Constitutional Court provide an explanation of Article 60 in the Constitutional Declaration, and whether the world “elect” allows MPs to select 50 from amongst themselves to sit on the constitutional drafting committee.

“Any constitution is supposed to draw lines between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. When MPs are entrusted to write the constitution, how can we ensure it does not favour the legislative branch?” Ashour told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The Foreign Ministry, Egypt’s Workers’ Union and a number of Coptic Orthodox Church figures issued statements criticising the Brotherhood for ignoring the names of candidates they had sent to parliament to be considered for membership of the constituent assembly.

Lawyer Shehata Mohamed has filed a separate case with the Administrative Court asking for the Muslim Brotherhood itself to be dissolved on the grounds it had no clear legal status. The case was adjourned until 19 June.

The Brotherhood, which was outlawed in 1954, opened scores of offices across Egypt following the ouster of president Mubarak, and generously funded FJP candidates in January’s parliamentary elections. Shehata told the court on Tuesday that if the Muslim Brotherhood was considered a non-governmental organisation, it had no licence from the Ministry of Social Affairs, and that not being a political party it had no legal right to participate in politics.

The lack of trust secular parties have in the real intentions of Islamist groups is unlikely to be assuaged any time soon. Nor, warned Socialist Alliance Party member Khaled Abdel-Hamid, should secular parties ally themselves with SCAF against the Brotherhood.

“We must not fall into SCAF’s hands. In the end it is responsible for all the disasters since Mubarak’s removal, and wants only to secure its own interests and influence.” (full text).

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