[QODLink]
Middle East
Egypt's liberals stage walkout
MPs meet to elect 100-member body to draft new constitution, despite walkout and allegations of Islamist domination.
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2012 16:58
A total of 39 seats were allocated to political parties; the rest went to unionists, legal scholars and other groups [EPA]

Members of Egypt's parliament have met to vote for members of a constitutional assembly, but the process was marred when dozens of secular MPs walked out of the session, accusing Islamist parties of trying to dominate the new panel.

It was their second try at choosing the 100-member panel. The first assembly was appointed in March, and quickly suspended by court order amid allegations that it was unrepresentative of Egyptian society.

After weeks of haggling, the country's political factions finally seemed to reach a deal last week. They agreed on a 50-50 split between Islamists and secular representatives, with blocs of seats guaranteed for legal scholars, representatives of religious institutions, trade unionists and other groups.

But their agreement quickly unravelled, with secular critics complaining that the breakdown was actually weighted in favour of Islamist groups.

Some of the MPs who walked out of Tuesday's session objected to allocating a specific number of seats for individual political parties.

"We are against dividing up the seats based on parties in the two assemblies, or party shares. We are against discriminating against the rest of society," said Amr Hamzawy, a liberal MP from Cairo.

'Not a game of football'

Ziad Bahaa el-Din, from the Social Democratic Party, criticised what he called "counting heads".


"This is not a game of football; this is about drafting a constitution," he said. "And to do that you must build a broader sense of consensus and unity. Once you start negotiating, one person here, another there, then by definition the consensus-building process has collapsed."

The supreme constitutional court, which was supposed to receive a seat on the assembly, announced that it would not choose a representative in order to avoid "becom[ing] party to ongoing disagreements in the political scene".

But the vote continued in spite of the criticism. A total of 39 seats were allocated to political parties, with the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party - which commands a plurality in the parliament - receiving the largest share.

The vote could be parliament's last major action. The supreme court is due to rule on Thursday on whether the parliament is unconstitutional; a lower court found that the electoral process - allowing political parties to compete with independent candidates for some seats - might have violated the constitution.

If the supreme court agrees, the parliament would be dissolved and new elections would be called.

All of this comes just a few days before the presidential runoff election scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, which pits Mohammed Morsi, the Brotherhood's candidate, against Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under deposed president Hosni Mubarak's regime. The two men received the largest share of votes in the first round of balloting last month.

489

Source:
Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
People
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.
Featured
Since independence, Zimbabwe has faced food shortages, hyperinflation - and several political crises.
After a sit-in protest at Poland's parliament, lawmakers are set to raise government aid to carers of disabled youth.
A vocal minority in Ukraine's east wants to join Russia, and Kiev has so far been unable to put down the separatists.
Iran's government has shifted its take on 'brain drain' but is the change enough to reverse the flow?
Deadly attacks on anti-mining activists in the Philippines part of a global trend, according to new report.
join our mailing list