Egyptian liberals throw tantrums over representationBy DALLIA MONIEM in Cairo | Tuesday, June 12 2012 at 15:48
Political intrigues are not about to end in Cairo, the seat of Egyptian power.
A week after what seemed to be a breakthrough, on the makeup of the Constituent Assembly, the body charged with drafting Egypt's new constitution, things have changed. Liberal and leftist parties have staged a walkout in protest against over representation of the Islamists.
Parties such as the Free Egypt, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), the Egyptian Democratic, Tagammu, Free Egyptians, Socialist Popular Alliance and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) all claim the Islamists have reneged on agreements reached last week regarding the membership of the assembly and that representation would neither be fair nor equal.
In a statement, the non-Islamist bloc said the initial agreement to equally divide the 100 seats in the assembly between both the Islamists and non-Islamists groups was changed and that they had found out that two Islamist parties had been included in the number of seats originally included in the leftists and liberals quota, along with the main Muslim and Christian institutions.
The statement signatories added that the ruling SCAF was held “responsible for the erroneous path that led us to this crisis (and) we also hold the Muslim Brotherhood responsible for resolving this crisis, which escalated because of the Brotherhood's insistence on domination and rejection of consensus".
Mr Farid Zahran, the head of the ESDP, said his party received a call from a representative of the Islamists stating that “the 22 assembly members to be drawn from non-political entities would be counted as part of the assembly's non-Islamist bloc...(and) that they had rejected suggestions to divide the 22 members drawn from non-political entities equally between the two blocs.”
The liberal Free Egyptians Party said they too would not take part and instead “would hand their seats to women, Christians, workers, peasants and others – the sections of society they said had been denied representation,” according to party's spokesman.
He added: “We agreed that half the seats in the assembly would be allocated to Islamists, while the rest would be earmarked for non-Islamist parties and figures. But instead, we found on Sunday that representatives of the Wasat Party, the Building and Reform Party, Al-Azhar, Christian churches and other state institutions were taking seats from the 50 per cent allocated to non-Islamist forces.”
The ETUF released a statement expressing their anger at the final makeup of the constituent body saying: “Seven syndicates have been selected to have representation, including five that are headed by Muslim Brotherhood members. The Constituent Assembly does not represent the whole of Egyptian society, but rather only one faction that will form the majority of the assembly in order to control the constitution-drafting process.”
On their part, the Islamists counter-claimed that the liberal and leftist groups were the ones that had gone back on the agreement reached last week regarding the representation of the assembly.
“We haven’t breached any agreement ... clearly, they agreed on something then changed their minds and want to backtrack and they have no right to backtrack,” Mr Sayed Khalifa, the MP of the ultra-conservative Islamist party Al-Nour, said during a session on Monday.
Speaking on a television programme, Mr Farid Ismail, an MP of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, claimed the parties that withdrew from the assembly did so to make it fail in order for the Supreme Constitutional Court to order the dissolution of parliament.
The deadlock over the makeup of the constituent assembly has been one of the main factors in holding up the transition to civilian rule, especially as the new constitution will replace the old one which had underpinned Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.
With issues such as the extent of presidential powers and the authority of Parliament up for debate, the make-up of the assembly is vitally important.
Both houses of parliament are set to have a joint meeting on Tuesday to choose the members of the constituent assembly.
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Beyond the ballot