Wednesday’s papers: Constituent Assembly wild success, dramatic failure

News about the Constituent Assembly tasked with writing Egypt’s post-Hosni Mubarak constitution makes headlines in all of Wednesday’s papers. Yet, each daily has a different take on the matter. While state-owned Al-Ahram and the Muslim Brotherhood’s mouthpiece celebrate the election of the assembly as a success story reflective of a larger consensus among political parties, privately-owned Al-Tahrir stress the stir elicited by the body's make-up.

The Freedom and Justice paper, named after the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, leads with “The people write Egypt’s post-revolution constitution.” The paper says 85 percent of MPs have reached a consensus over the assembly —  in an oblique attempt to undermine the significance of the withdrawal of more than 50 lawmakers from the parliament session Tuesday when the 100-member panel was chosen. Withdrawing lawmakers claimed that the Brotherhood seeks to dominate the assembly.

To refute this claim, the party paper quotes MPs who dismissed any boycott as an attempt to halt constitution writing. Farid al-Ismail, the vice president of the People’s Assembly Defense and National Security Committee is quoted as saying that the Brotherhood made a lot of concessions but secular forces kept coming with new demands. Nader Bakkar, the spokesman of the Salafi-oriented Nour Party, accused secular parties of “making up problems,” according to Freedom and Justice.

Al-Ahram leads with a headline that also undermines concerns about the assembly: “The full success of the consensual list of candidates in the Constituent Assembly elections.” 

Al-Tahrir leads with quite an inflammatory headline: “The Brothers have hijacked the constitution.” According to the independent paper, the assembly includes 32 Brotherhood members, including two from the group’s Guidance Bureau, as well as 22 Salafis. The paper foregoes any coverage of the Brotherhood's position, instead focusing exclusively on the accounts of lawmakers who boycotted yesterday’s session. Secular, independent MP Amr Hamzawy is quoted as saying that Islamists constitute more than 60 percent of the assembly, while secular representatives make up at most 28 percent. Ziad Bahaa Eddin, another MP representing the Social Democratic Party, tells the paper the only solution is military council intervention. He advocates the military issue a new Constitutional Declaration of criteria for assembly membership to “put an end to the intransigence of the [Islamist] parliamentary majority and to take the hands of the Parliament off the Constituent Assembly so that it can be representative of different groups in society.”

The same paper highlights on its front page reports circulated on Facebook about the health of Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohamed Morsy. The paper raises the question of who stands behind the leak of a photocopy of a request Morsy had allegedly submitted to his boss, the dean of the Zagazig University’s Engineering School, in 2008. Morsy had allegedly requested financial assistance to be treated for hepatitis, high blood pressure, chronic stomach ulcers and nerve inflammation. The same document claims that Morsy had surgery to remove a brain tumor five years earlier. Al-Tahrir quotes campaign spokesperson Yasser Ali as reportedly acknowledging that Morsy underwent brain surgery and had hepatitis, but was cured.  

As to Mubarak’s health, liberal party paper Al-Wafd leads with “Mubarak’s heart stops for 140 seconds.” His lawyer Farid al-Deeb had submitted requests to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the prisons authority and the public prosecutor, demanding that his client be promptly transferred from Tora prison to a military hospital, Al-Wafd reports.

While the paper quotes anonymous sources as saying that the request will be accepted, privately-owned Al-Shorouk reports that Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim will keep Mubarak in Tora.

The same paper also reports that reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei and Hamdeen Sabahhi, who came in third in the first round of presidential elections, are discussing a potential alliance. According to Al-Tahrir, Sabbahi and ElBaradei have agreed that their respective political parties would engage in future parliamentary and municipal elections as one bloc. They also agreed that Sabbahi would run again for president if the results of the first round are annulled and the poll is repeated. The talks come ahead of the Supreme Constitutional Court's much-anticipated ruling on legal amendments that would strip ex-Mubarak officials of political rights. The court is set to convene on Thursday and decide whether the amendments, known as the Political Isolation Law, are constitutional, a ruling that could lead to the ejection of former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq from the presidential race. 

In an Al-Shorouk column, famous novelist Ahdaf Soueif dissects the phenomenon of sexual harassment in Egypt. She focuses on recent assaults on demonstrators in Tahrir Square, arguing that this type of aggression is a mere continuation of the policies of Mubarak’s security apparatus. She also refers to assaults on female protesters in downtown Cairo in 2005. She contends that sexual harassment targeting women in Tahrir is no different from other forms of violence that aim to silence dissent.

“In general, the body is one of the battlefields. This systematic [sexual] aggression is part of the same pattern of killing and detaining protesters, targeting eyes, crippling bodies, torturing youth and children … ” she writes.

Egypt’s papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhurriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Watan: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Youm7: Daily, privately owned

Al-Tahrir: Daily, privately owned

Freedom and Justice: Daily, published by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Nasserist Party

Al-Nour: Official paper of the Salafi Nour Party

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