Liberals, Islamists tussle over Egypt constitution (REUTERS) By Shaimaa Fayed CAIRO, EGYPT 03/27/12 9:39am EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Egyptian liberals and leftists wary of Islamist dominance
of an assembly drafting a new constitution said on Tuesday they would
write their own, deepening a row overshadowing a major element of the
transition from President Hosni Mubarak´s rule.
Liberals who have quit the 100-member assembly in protest at its make-
up were among those who signed a statement that pledged to write an
alternative constitution to the one being drafted by the official
body, which was formed at the weekend.
"We shall undertake this duty from outside the official assembly in
collaboration with all the segments of society and experts that
should have been included from the beginning," said the statement,
released at a news conference where one speaker after another accused
the Islamists of seeking to dominate.
The row has raised doubts over the credibility of a process designed
to set the rules for how Egypt is governed, adding a new challenge to
the ruling military´s transition plans.
The Islamists secured a major say in the constitutional assembly´s
composition thanks to their strong position in parliament, where the
Muslim Brotherhood and the more hardline Nour Party won some 70
percent of seats in recent elections.
Liberals, leftists and others say the poll result should not decide
the make-up of a body that will write a constitution meant to last
far longer than a parliamentary term. Women, young people and
minority Christians are under-represented, they say.
"The political Islamic current has given itself the right to
monopolize the writing of the constitution, excluding the other
factions of Egyptian society," Ahmed Said, head of the liberal Free
Egyptians Party, said at the meeting.
Mostafa El Gendy, a liberal and a member of the Revolution Continues
group, told Reuters: "The constitution is for all Egyptians, to be
participated in by all Egyptians."
The Muslim Brotherhood disputes accusations that Islamists dominate
the Constitutional Assembly, saying it contains 48 Islamists, 36 from
parliament and 12 from outside. Their opponents say a score of other
members have Islamist leanings.
The Brotherhood, founded in 1928, has said the criticism amounts to
an attempt by the minority to impose its will on an elected
majority. "Thirty million people elected those MPs. How come they
shouldn´t be part of the assembly?" asked Abdel Khaleq al-Sherif, a
member of the Brotherhood´s advisory council.
Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the military council
ruling Egypt since Mubarak was toppled, met politicians on Tuesday to
try to resolve the crisis, an army official said.
The military council is due to hand power to a new president at the
end of June, completing a transition to civilian rule.
A Cairo court convened on Tuesday to hear legal complaints filed by
Egyptians over the formation of the constitutional assembly, and
about 150 protesters gathered outside.
"We didn´t die so the Brotherhood could write the constitution," read
one of their banners.
Hafez Abou Saeda, head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights,
who was among the crowd, said: "It (the assembly) poses great danger
because it means two parties with Islamist orientations will divide
amongst themselves the constitution, meaning they can restrict rights
"They can seek to implement a system of government that gives more
powers to the majority party, turning our system from a presidential
one to a parliamentary one which leads to control of the upper and
lower houses of parliament and the government."
Some members of the Brotherhood and the Nour Party have also
criticized the way the assembly was formed.
"I call on the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi Nour Party, to which
I am honored to belong, to open the door to communication and
dialogue," said Yasser Salah El-Kadi, an Islamist MP who attended
Tuesday´s news conference. (Additional reporting by Tamim Elyan and
Ashraf Fahim; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Alistair Lyon) (©
Thomson Reuters 2012. 03/27/12)
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