Political forces see assembly disbandment as Brotherhood opportunity

Following a court ruling this week suspending the Constituent Assembly, the Freedom and Justice Party contacted those who had pulled out of the constitution-drafting body to discuss the creation of a new panel, according to Wahid Abdel Meguid, a former assembly member and the general coordinator of the FJP-led Democratic Alliance.

A meeting is expected to be held within two days regarding the formation of a new assembly that will better represent the community and address the shortcomings of the previous body’s makeup. 

The Cairo Administrative Court ordered the assembly’s formation halted on Tuesday, following harsh criticism that the panel was overwhelmingly comprised of Islamists handpicked by MPs, leading to the withdrawal of Al-Azhar, the Coptic Church, the Supreme Constitutional Court, liberal and leftist parties and others.

"After the verdict invalidating the formation of the assembly, there is no way other than the political solution, [where everybody] must rise to the level of responsibility," Abdel Meguid said in a statement to Al-Masry Al-Youm.

He said some members of the original Constituent Assembly want to challenge the court ruling, while others have rejected a potential appeal.

Abdel Meguid said there was a general agreement on the need to address the shortcomings of the former assembly through restructuring it into a more balanced one and that the FJP does not object to addressing these shortcomings in principle.

Abdel Meguid said that a small meeting would be held within two days between the Islamist parties and the political forces that had pulled their delegates to determine the percentage of MPs in the new assembly.

He added that an expanded meeting would be held including all political forces and other concerned parties to begin discussing member selection.

The chances of reaching consensus have increased in the wake of the court ruling as there is an opportunity for the parties to reassess their positions, Freedom and Justice leader Mohamed al-Beltagy said.

"Yes, there was a political crisis, but the opportunity has come to impose on all parties to resolve it through consultation and consensus. We agreed not to appeal against the verdict and that the different parties will sit together to reach a solution and restructure the committee without fears of a controlling majority, nor a disabling one-third," Beltagy wrote on his Facebook page:

"The assembly is studying the situation after the ruling and there are contacts on a regular basis, especially with a number of [former] assembly members or jurists," said Ahmed Abdel Rahman, Freedom and Justice Party member and former assembly member.

The FJP’s legal committee met Wednesday evening to discuss the court ruling.

"The verdict is void and implies a grave mistake against the law, but the [Freedom and Justice] party is not a party to this litigation," committee member Ahmed Abu Baraka said.

"The party's situation [regarding the dispute] is clear, which is to satisfy all the parties involved with regard to the formation of the assembly and reviewing everything on condition that it is within the framework of respect for the will of people and the law," Abu Baraka told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Mohamed Alaa Aboul Azayem, chairman of the committee managing the Supreme Council of Sufi Orders, said "The Sufi Orders will call on all political and national forces and religious institutions, including Al-Azhar and the churches to move immediately and coordinate together to prevent any attempts on the part of the Freedom and Justice Party and Nour Party to dominate the Constituent Assembly."
"The court ruling to disband [the assembly] is an opportunity that must be used to form an assembly representing all classes and strata of people," he added.

Aboul Azayem said Sufi sheikhs met with Abdel Hady al-Qasaby, chairman of the Supreme Council of Sufi Orders and a Sufi representative on the original assembly, and agreed to seek increased representation on the new body through the inclusion of Sufi constitutional scholars.

Shia leaders applauded Wednesday the court ruling and demanded to be represented on the new assembly. Mohamed Ghonaim, head of the Shia community in Egypt, said the Shia representative should have no links to the former regime or foreign countries.

A number of political party leaders also welcomed the verdict and agreed that it created a real chance for the Muslim Brotherhood to return to the line of revolutionary and national forces and reconsider its domination over the Constituent Assembly.

Mostafa al-Taweel, a Wafd Party official, said the ruling was enforceable and correct and expected it to be in favor of the withdrawing forces. However, he added that he only feared the court’s jurisdiction in the case would be challenged as the assembly formation may be considered a purely legislative matter and not an administrative issue.

Taweel added that the verdict proved conclusively that the assembly formation was wrong from the beginning, because the constitution cannot be established by the majority, as it belongs to all Egyptians.

Sayed Abdel Aal, a Tagammu Party leader, was optimistic the verdict would lead to the formation of an assembly not dominated by one group and with more equal representation.

Abdel Aal added that the criteria upon which the new members would be selected should guarantee the representation of all political currents and classes of society.

Abdel Aal said it would be arrogant of the Muslim Brotherhood to challenge the ruling, as it gives them a chance to repair ties with national and revolutionary forces.

Farid Zahran, a leader in the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, agreed that an appeal would be another mistake for the Brotherhood, saying that the verdict was expected as assembly makeup violated the law.

The ruling pleased the Free Egyptians Party because it brought down the hegemony and tutelage of the Muslim Brotherhood over the constitution, said party spokesperson Ahmed Khairy, adding that the ruling was a coup de grace for an assembly that did not represent the people.

Khairy stressed the need to develop clear standards for the selection of new assembly members.

The Advisory Council to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces also welcomed the verdict and renewed calls for the SCAF to issue a constitutional declaration laying out the criteria for selecting the 100 new members. Advisory Council Secretary General Osama Borhan said such a declaration would ensure the representation of various groups including youth, women, Copts, unions, judicial bodies and others.

Borhan also said the council had decided to invite 50 public figures from civil society organizations and political groups to its weekly meetings.  

Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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