- Middle East/North Africa
An opposition coalition member dismissed Wednesday an invitation from the Constituent Assembly to opposition leaders for a meeting on the controversial draft constitution as "too late."
The assembly's mandate expired when it finished drafting the constitution and it does not have the authority to invite National Salvation Front members for talks, said Ahmed Hassan al-Borai, vice president of the Constitution Party and secretary of the front.
The assembly on Tuesday invited leading opposition figures Mohamed ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabbahi, Al-Sayed al-Badawy and Amr Moussa to voice their opinions on the draft during an open assembly session on Friday afternoon. But the belated invitation comes as half of the country has already voted on the document in a popular referendum, the second half of which is scheduled for Saturday.
Borai questioned, in statements to state news agency MENA, why the assembly was fostering dialogue after the referendum has already begun, even though it was long aware of opposition objections to the draft.
He also said that the National Salvation Front had asked President Mohamed Morsy to postpone the referendum two weeks, and added that the front now wants the constitution scrapped altogether. Asked why the front did not draft its own constitution as an alternative, Borai said that the coalition had chosen not do so to preserve the unity of Egyptians.
Borai, who is a former minister of manpower, said that the front set as conditions for dialogue the postponement of the referendum and the withdrawal of the president's November decree granting himself expanded powers. Any additional steps taken to undermine the judiciary or immunize the president's decisions from review would further complicate the situation, he said.
"We really hope the president will reconsider the situation and bring the people together," MENA quoted Borai as saying.
Asked about reports that the Muslim Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau had issued a call for dialogue with different political powers, Borai said the front has not received any such request and that a proper invitation should not be extended on television.
Edited translation from MENA