Egypt Attempts to Create a New Constituent Assembly
Egypt is attempting to set up a new constitutional assembly as the parliament speaker on Friday has asked for nominations for the body which is expected to deliver the country a new constitution a week before the 80-million nation will know who the president is.
The previous court was disbanded in April amid harsh criticism that it was composed of too many Islamists, which led the Christian community, the secularists and the liberals to leave it, prompting a court in Cairo to officially declare it non operational.
The new constitution is expected to reflect the real balance of power between the president and the parliament, but many fear that it would reflect more the monopoly on power the Muslim Brotherhood may gain if their candidate wins the runoff next week.
The supreme military power which has ensured the transition after the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 is expected to make good on their promise and hand over the power to the civilian authority as soon as July 1, but for the time being no one knows what kind of powers the new president will have.
On Tuesday, the military council offered the parties an ultimatum, urging them to create a constitutional body within 48 hours, threatening that otherwise they would amend the constitution themselves, so that it may be ready by the time of the power transfer.
On Thursday however the council called for the parliament to convene next week to elect the 100-member constituent assembly. The committee charged with creating the assembly is led by a member of the Freedom and Justice party, the political representative of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood committee leader asked the religious body, the political parties, the professional syndicates, the workers unions, the chambers of commerce and industry and the public figures to send representatives so that the new constitution may reflect the wide spectrum of society.
The new body is expected to be made of 39 political parties representatives and 61 public figures, including lawyers, judges, religious leaders, union members.
The new constitution is very important for the future of the state, dominated by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in the parliament and society. Egypt is a country with 10 percent of the population of Christian Coptic descent, and has an important community of liberals and secularists who do not appreciate the idea of submitting to the law of Sharia.
At the end of May, the candidate for the Justice and Freedom party, Mohammed Morsi, caused concern to the 10 percent Christians in his country and the Christians all over the world as word got out that he had said that, if elected, the Christians would either convert to Islam, pay jizyah, the tribute for non-Muslims living in a Muslim state, or leave.
He was quoted by the Egyptian news website El Bashayer to say that he would achieve a second Muslim conquest of Egypt. The conversation is said to have happened at the headquarters of the Justice and Freedom party.
It was not independently confirmed that he actually said so, and a spokesperson for the Christian watchdog Open Doors told The Christian Post that it was unlikely that Morsi would have threatened Christian to either convert or leave the country, especially as he portrays himself as a centrist candidate.
While those words ascribed to Morsi could be only a way to dissuade the Christian community to vote for him, what is sure is that during a press conference Morsi promised to lead in a democratic manner, to uphold the rights of the Christian and the women, called the Christians “brothers,” said they would have full access to rights, and women that they would not be imposed the veil.
He went as far as to say that the “Christian brothers” will be “national partners,” that they would be represented as advisers in the presidential institution, and even alluded that a vice president office could be made available.
It would seem that these promises were more credible than the alleged threat as public figures such as Coptic academic Doctor Nagy Naguib urged the Copts to vote in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, saying that Christians have no problem with the Islamic values and that the Muslim Brotherhood candidate was “at the heart of the revolution” in Egypt.
Morsi, who scored 24 percent in the first round of elections, will meet Ahmed Shafiq, who scored 23, in the runoff on June 16 and 17. Shafiq is a former prime minister of Mubarak’s regime and is expected to remind many Egyptians of the former regime.
Earlier this week, the court that judged the Mubarak case reached a verdict, condemning the former president to life in prison, a decision which raged many people in the country, who were expecting a death sentence. There were those who thought that the trial of Mubarak was a shame and were expecting his release.
It is said that the health of the former president deteriorated after the verdict and that he may be required to be brought back to the hospital where he was treated during the trial.11