Egypt suspends Islamist-led constitution panel (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Mona Salem 04/10/12)
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An Egyptian court suspended on Tuesday the Islamist-dominated
commission tasked with drafting a new constitution amid a boycott by
liberals, moderate Muslims and the Coptic church.
The administrative court in Cairo said it was "suspending the
constituent assembly" without explaining the reasons,but lawyers and
liberal political parties had filed a complaint accusing the Islamist-
majority parliament, which formed the panel, of having abused its
The decision comes amid a tense standoff between Islamist and secular
forces just six weeks ahead of the country´s first post-revolution
Mohammed Nur Farhat, a lawyer and official of the liberal Social
Democratic Party said the "constitutional commission has been made
null and void by this judicial decision and may not continue its work.
"Parliament must meet to re-form the constitutional commission, and
we invite it to begin setting out the criteria that will guarantee an
equitable representation of social and political forces, so that it
is not dominated by a single political current," he added.
The 100-member panel, which is evenly divided between
parliamentarians and public figures, was elected by the parliament,
which also voted for a number of reserve candidates who could could
replace the panelists.
But most of its members are from the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist
fundamentalists who hold the majority in both houses of parliament.
The secular parties have already withdrawn from the commission,
believing that their presence was only used as a smoke screen
allowing the Islamists to draft a basic law that reflects their
The prestigious Sunni Islamic institution, Al-Azhar, and the Coptic
Orthodox Church of Egypt have also decided to boycott the panel.
Islamists believe the commission should reflect the composition of a
parliament, where the Muslim Brotherhood´s Freedom and Justice Party
(FJP) holds nearly half the seats and the Salafists Al-Nur party
almost one quarter.
The secularists want a more balanced commission, fearing that the
Islamist grip would lead to the strengthening of a demand for Islamic
sharia law to be the point of reference for legislation.
On Tuesday, around 150 people demonstrated outside the offices of the
State Council, which has the power to rule on administrative
disputes, to protest against Islamist control of the constitutional
One banner proclaimed: "The constitution is not a matter of
majorities. Egypt will remain a civil state."
Another read: "There are (entities) that cannot be trusted -- the
army and the Muslim Brotherhood."
A junta known as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has ruled
Egypt since a popular uprising toppled long-time president Hosni
Mubarak in February 2011.
The SCAF is overseeing the transition to democratic civilian rule,
which has already seen the election of a new parliament and will see
presidential elections beginning in late May.
When the Coptic church, whose faithful make up about 10 percent of
Egypt´s population, withdrew from the panel its Holy Synod said it
considered it "inappropriate to continue to be represented given the
reservations of various political forces on how the constitutional
commission was composed."
Egypt´s Supreme Constitutional Court also pulled out,
expressing "doubts and confusion" over the make-up of the panel,"
while Al-Azhar said it did not consider itself properly represented.
In principle, the panel has up to six months to draft a new
constitution to replace the one suspended by the military when it
took power last year.
The decision to suspend the panel comes amid uncertainties over who
will actually be permitted to run for Egypt´s presidency, with the
registration of candidacies having closed on Sunday.
The constitutional process is also unlikely to be finished before
elections, which are scheduled on May 23 and 24, raising fears among
many of having to elect a president whose powers have not been
The registration process itself has been drama-filled, particularly
with the controversial announcement by the Muslim Brotherhood to
field a candidate after repeatedly vowing to stay out of the race.
A provisional list of candidates include former Arab League chief Amr
Mussa, ultra-conservative Islamist preacher Hazem Abu Ismail, the
Muslim Brotherhood´s Khairat El-Shater, former Brotherhood member
Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, Mubarak´s last prime minister, Ahmed
Shafiq, and former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. (Copyright ©
2012 Agence France Presse. 04/10/12)
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