Sunday 29 April 2012

Egypt Tries To Get Out Of Its Constitutional Crisis

Some news then. This afternoon, SCAF and multiple political forces agreed on what they see as the principles needed to get out of the current Egyptian constitutional crisis. These six principles were, according to Ahram Online:  

  1. Consensus has to be reached over the proportions alloted to each soceital group or faction in deference to the administrative court ruling. 
  2. Consensus has to be reached over any single constitutional article. In case consensus cannot be reached, a two-thirds majortiy must be reached and if such a majority cannot be reached within 24 hours, then a 57-member majority -- out of 100 members -- would be sufficient. 
  3. Each party will choose its own representatives. Religious institutions will also choose their representatives. Al-Azhar will choose four, while Egypt's churches including the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican will choose six representatives. Ten legal and constitutional experts will be chosen and a member of each judicial institution will also be represented in the constituent assembly. Farmers will be allotted two constituents and workers will also be granted two seats. Public figures including women, students and the disabled will also be assigned seats. 
  4. Efforts will be exerted to finish the drafting of the new constitution before presidential election runoffs are completed.
  5. Egypt's de-facto leader and SCAF head Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi will call both Upper and Lower houses of parliament to stage a joint meeting to elect members of the constituent assembly.
  6. A supervising committee will be formed to include representatives of the Wafd Party, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, the Egyptian Bloc, El-Hadara Party and the Ghad El-Thawra Party. The committee will also include independent MPs including Mostafa Bakry and Marian Malak."
 A few extra points:

1- Multiple MPs and spokespersons for the forces attending the meeting said they had overall consensus on the new formation of the Constituent Assembly (CA), but the biggest debate was on the voting percentages within it on procedural and substantive issues (such as choosing the articles of the constitution.)

2- When asked how they reached these final percentages, an Islamist MP from the "Construction And Development Party" speaking on Dream TV said while "believe it or not, we pretty much negotiated until we reached 57%. Someone wanted 60%, another wanted 55%, another wanted 70%. There was just no particular logic behind what we reached." (Note: the number I just quoted now were random examples, as I cannot remember exactly which numbers he used. But it was clear he was giving random numbers for demonstration)

3- Head of the Egyptian SDP Dr. Mohammed Abul-Ghar (who boycotted the meeting because he had "attended many such meetings before, all of them lasting hours without any benefits") said these percentages should be raised, even to 90% if possible. A constitution should be made for "100 years" ahead, regardless of which majority is in Parliament at the time of its drafting. I add my voice to the idea that at least 75% of the members of the CA must approve every item of of the Constitution. In fact, I would rather it be 80% or more. The greater the consensus, the better. I just do not like the idea of an emergency voting percentage of 57%. I see it as absolute nonsense, and another point of future conflict.

4- The same Islamist MP from (2) was saying that during the event, they were discussing names of possible members of the CA. Whenever an independent name was suggested, many of the non-Islamist MPs would insist on getting extra background to be sure he had no clear MB or Salafi affiliations, and so they "would bring out their laptops and search online during the meeting" to make sure he wasn't so.

5- SCAF Head Field Marshall Tantawi, said the Islamist MP, had said that they would not leave the meeting until they come out with some real consensus of some sort

6- There seems to be a general consensus on using the defunct 1971 Constitution as a base, pretty much maintaining the first four chapters of it, possibly verbatim. The main question will be the division of powers between the Parliament and the President. According to various sources, the MB wants a mixed system inspired from the French model, but would rather Parliament elect the Prime Minister instead of the president appointing him; and also, they reportedly don't want the President to have the power to dissolve parliament. While I understand the logic of the first idea, I feel that the elected President should be a strong and powerful office, and should also have the power to dissolve parliament if necessary, but with strict constitutional guidelines and limits. In the coming phase, I feel it would be best if power was distributed to more equitably between all branches of government rather than having one branch reign disproportionately supreme (as in the British model, for example.)

7- These "principles" might actually fall apart, and may not necessarily end up being used or adopted. A few MPs speaking on television have reaffirmed that, from what I understand.

8- These attempts towards a more consensual CA would not have taken place hadn't the liberals, leftists, nationalists, and multiple other entities withdrawn from the farcical disaster that was the first CA. They gambled and took a stand against the FJPs attempt at unjustified hegemony, and their protest bore fruit. I hope they do not waste their historic protest on measly victories. Voting percentages in the CA must be increased.

9- While many political forces nominally want to finish the constitution before the presidential elections are over, that remains a nearly impossible task, especially if the elections end from the first round without run-offs.

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