Egypt Independent

Constituent Assembly holds debate on constitution despite absence of opposition

The Constituent Assembly convened Friday for a debate on the new constitution ahead of the second phase of the referendum Saturday. The representatives of the National Salvation Front, the umbrella opposition group including several leaders, were invited for the debate but did not attend the session.

Abul Ela Mady, assembly member and head of the Wasat Islamist party, stressed in a speech at the beginning of the session that no party can manage the country on its own. Mady said that the debate aimed at giving the opportunity to both opponents and supporters to the constitution draft to explain their points of view to the people.
Meanwhile, media figure Khaled Salah read out a letter sent by former presidential candidate and member of the front Amr Moussa whereby he said that the constitution draft was already presented in the media, as well as its contentions and that there was no need for another debate.
In the letter, Moussa criticized some articles for being "elusive and negatively interpreted." He also said that the articles of the constitution draft do not set clear boundaries between the different branches of the state. The letter concluded by saying that the nation would lose much if the constitution draft is approved. 
Constituent Assembly Secretary General Amr Darag responded to the letter by saying, "We invited four National Salvation Front leaders and the only two who responded were Amr Moussa with the letter, and [former presidential candidate] Hamdeen Sabbahi with a telephone call." 
"Political forces have been invited more than once for a dialogue in public," he added. 
"The call for debate was made before the first phase of the referendum," the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party leader and assembly member Mohamed al-Beltagy said. Beltagy stressed that the debate does not aim at announcing opposition or supporters triumphant, but its primary objective is to clarify parts of the constitution deemed catastrophic by the opposition. 
The Constituent Assembly had officially called on Tuesday for a meeting to which the leaders of different political groups were invited. 
A copy of an invitation sent to National Salvation Front leaders Mohamed ElBaradei, Sabbahi, Moussa and Wafd Party Chairman al-Sayed al-Badawy was published on the assembly's Facebook page.
The assembly confirmed Friday, ahead of the second phase of referendum on the constitution draft on Saturday, that the call for debate stands "even if there is no response or if it is rejected."
"Our responsibility until the referendum ends is to clarify and explain. This is our national duty," Darag said. 
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm