Why we withdrew from the constituent assembly
Fri, 30/03/2012 - 14:20

For many months, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis in Parliament have been affirming that the writing of the Constitution will be a process characterized by national consensus, in which the different currents and segments of Egyptian society will be fairly represented. They reiterated time and time again that no particular political current would dominate the process, since constitutions are not drafted by majorities, but rather by a true consensus. We always had good faith in such statements, and we praised that patriotic stance by the Islamist parties. Unfortunately, in the past few days, we have realized it has all been empty talk.  

My decision not to partake in the elections process of the constituent assembly (either through presenting myself for nomination or participating in the voting process, in addition to pledging to boycott the assembly after its formation) is in protest of the Islamist majority’s bypassing the national consensus, its persistence on domination and hegemony, and the enforcement of de facto political realities on the people. I herein briefly present some of the reasons for my position.

The process of forming the assembly did not take place through real elections. Instead, they were direct appointments of a list that was prepared jointly by the Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafi Nour Party. And thus, there was no meaning to these elections, as the MPs of both parties had simply attended the electoral session with a preset list, and merely copied the listed names into the ballots. It is worth noting that many of them didn’t even recognize a significant number of the names they were electing. When I joked with an MP from the FJP and told him that it would have been easier for the paper to have simply been printed and stamped and just inserted into the ballot box to save time, he smiled and said: “Commitment to the party comes first. Our brothers know what is best, and surely their choices are correct.”

For months, we have been participating in public debates on the criteria for selecting the members of the constituent assembly, the issue of the supra-constitutional principles, and many other documents and proposals adopted or put forth by a myriad of entities and public personalities, all revolving around the process of selecting members of the constituent assembly. But the parliamentary majority has decided to spit in the faces of everyone, and chose only one criterion for someone to become a member of the Constituent Assembly: to be chosen by the FJP and Nour.

The motto of “We will say something today and retreat from it tomorrow, and no one has the right to question us” has been shaping the attitude of the parliamentary majority during the process of selecting the members of the constituent assembly. The Brotherhood had announced earlier that they would like 60 percent of the constituent assembly’s members to come from outside the Parliament, but then backed away from their position moments before the voting process, and announced that 50 percent will come from Parliament, and 50 percent from outside of it. They had also announced that 25 percent will come specifically from different national authorities and agencies, but also retreated moments before voting, and decided not to set a particular quota for representation of such entities. When we objected to that, we were overpowered and suppressed, the floor for debate was abruptly closed, and the voting process was then rushed in a manner that twisted everyone’s arms and forced a reality upon us.

Almost all of the youth of the revolution have been excluded from the constituent assembly, both those who have become MPs or those outside of Parliament, as if they are being punished for their role in the revolution. The majority did not take into consideration that it was those same youth groups who ignited the revolution and opened the gates of freedom, while certain Salafis from that same Islamist majority had prohibited participation in the 25 January revolution under the rubric that religion forbids defying the ruler, and they have even gone as far as declaring that demonstrations were a sin. Others, from that same majority, were rather slow and calculated in their endorsement of the uprising until it was clear that the balance was tipping in favor of the revolution, and then they suddenly decided to latch onto the revolution and exclude everyone else from the political scene.

Furthermore, there is an obvious marginalization of Egyptian women through their continued exclusion by the Islamist majority. Women who had participated in the revolution from the start and were a primary reason for its success are not properly represented in the Islamists’ constituent assembly by the meager six percent representation they were granted. I was genuinely shocked when this percentage was first leaked, and I asked a colleague who belonged to the Islamist majority: “Does this percentage befit the Egyptian woman after the revolution?!”, to which he said: “We cannot find women who are suitable to become members of the assembly,” as if eyes have been blinded to the towering women of Egypt, such as Noha al-Zeiny, Heba Raouf, and many others from whom we learnt and regard in the same manner that a student regards a true teacher.

The Islamist parliamentary majority in fact monopolized the knowledge of the nominated names for the constituent assembly. The remainder of the MPs were blocked from knowing these names or their backgrounds and expertise, and only found out about the nominees for the first time when the ballots were being handed out to us.

There is an obvious shift in rhetoric by the parliamentary majority. Their discourse had previously focused on the importance of national consensus; now the rhetoric has shifted to: “We are the majority, and our parties have received the confidence of the people, and we have a right to do whatever we wish.”

Information has been circulating within the media and political circles that the Brotherhood had presented their constituent assembly nominations to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces before holding the parliamentary session where the “vote” took place. We are told that the SCAF removed and added names to the list. Regardless of the reliability of such information, what cannot be denied is that the details and workings of the relationship between both the Islamists in Parliament, particularly the Brotherhood, and the SCAF remain a mystery, and a matter of great suspicion.

In the end, the truth remains that the parliamentary majority has failed in its first significant political test, putting the nation on the edge of the abyss through practicing exclusion, hegemony and the enforcement of de facto realities on Egyptians during a historical endeavor that could only be achieved through national consensus — the drafting of the constitution.

Mostafa al-Naggar is a member of Parliament. He is also a member of the Adl party.

Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm.

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