Yesterday [June 12, 2012], Egypt embarked on its mission to draft a new constitution, following a crisis sparked by the lack of consensus between political parties over the formation of the Constituent Assembly. This began with MPs from the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council voting for members of the second Constituent Assembly, which is tasked with drafting the country’s constitution. However, the selection process was boycotted by 79 MPs representing 14 parliamentary committees, in addition to 12 members of the Wafd Party.
Those who boycotted the selection process accused Egyptian religious parties of manipulating the Constituent Assembly selection process in order to win 50% of the Assembly’s total seats. Fingers were pointed after a list naming the Assembly’s 100 “actual” members and 50 “provisional” members — out of a total of 1,307 candidates — was distributed to MPs.
Among the parties boycotting the selection process were the Free Egyptians party, the Egyptian Social Democratic party, the National Progressive Unionist party, the Socialist Popular Alliance party and the National Party of Egypt.
Wafd party MPs also boycotted the selection process to protest their party’s formal position. As a result, Wafd leader El-Sayed el-Badawi suspended the membership of six MP party representatives at the People’s Assembly and Shura Council. Independent MP Amr Hamzawy also boycotted the selection process, thus raising the number of boycotting MPs to at least 92. MPs held several press conferences outside the meeting hall to explain their boycott.
“The mistakes committed by the first Constituent Assembly, which was dissolved as per the court’s order, have been committed again today,” stated Hamzawy. MP Ziad Bahaa al-Deen of the Egyptian Social Democratic party described the situation as “an utter collapse in communication between the parties.”
Some of the MPs boycotting the selection process later justified their actions by calling them “a protest against the lack of consensus, which guarantees the community’s right to draft a balanced constitution.”
“All efforts to reach a consensus were in vain. Political Islamic groups had already decided to hold on to a majority of seats in the assembly,” they added.
Some of the politicians who chose to participate in the selection process held a press conference in response to their boycotting counterparts. MP Oussama Yasseen of the Freedom and Justice party said that he could not find any reason to boycott the selection process given that an agreement had been reached.
“We have honored our commitments, as agreed upon with the concerned parties. We requested that only 50% of the total seats in the assembly be reserved for Islamic parties, even though they hold more than 80% of parliamentary seats,” said Hussein Ibrahim, head of the Freedom and Justice party.
The Supreme Constitutional Court abstained from taking part in the Constituent Assembly. An official at the Court stated that a rift between political parties over the best procedures for drafting of the constitution “is at the root of challenges regarding the formation of the assembly. We prefer, however, not to get involved in any dispute or conflict.”