During the AUC media roundtable
The American University in Cairo (AUC) organized the third of its “Behind the Headlines” series of media roundtable discussions, addressing the appointment and process of the Constituent Assembly commissioned to draft the Egyptian constitution, a topic that has dominated political discourse across Egypt over the past two weeks. The program, “Crafting the Constitution: A Path Beyond the Crisis,” featured AUC political science professors: Mustapha Kamel Al Sayyid, and Manar Al Shorbagy, and Amr Shalakany, an associate professor of law. The roundtable, which took place at AUC’s Tahrir Square campus was attended by several journalists, and was moderated by AUC alumnus Khaled Ezz El Arab, senior correspondent for BBC Arabic.
According to AUC’s panelists, the process of forming the Constituent Assembly was controlled by Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist political parties and doesn’t offer adequate representation for Egypt’s many liberal forces, women, Copts and workers' unions.
Al Sayyid said that scholars of constitutional law, who are competent to draft the constitution were excluded from membership of the Constituent Assembly. "Since the constitution sets the general framework of the government, regulates public freedoms and affects the lives of citizens, it should be formulated in a consensual manner taking into account the interests of different groups." He added that the Freedom and Justice party didn't present an opportunity for diverse groups to choose their own committee representation. "For example, they chose Freedom and Justice party's deputy head to be the Coptic figure representing the Christians."
According to Shalakany, a constitution expressing various trends in the society is a good idea but unfortunately unrealistic from the legal point of view. He believes it would be easy to reach consensus in the articles on rights and freedoms in the new constitution, yet, he anticipates a problem in the articles regarding the distribution of power. “In addition,” he noted, “putting citizens’ rights stipulated in the constitution into effect should be guaranteed by the government.”
According to Al Shorbagy, the issue of the founding committee is not only its monopolization by the Islamists "The problem in talking about the right of the majority is that it makes it seem as if the battle is over the identity of the state, defending the Islamic law "Shariah" and the shape of the Islamic state; this is not meant at all and not part of the conflict. Unlike what's portrayed by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis, there is no longer any sector in the Egyptian society demanding the abolition of Article II of the constitution, rather the dispute is over the nature of the political system."