Egypt secularists pull out of constituent assembly


Liberal and leftist parties have pulled out of a panel drafting Egypt’s new constitution, they announced on Tuesday, accusing Islamists of monopolising the process that will deliver the country’s post-revolution charter. The withdrawals from the panel have pushed the struggle between Islamists and secularists over the issue to crisis point. “We announce our rejection of the way the constituent assembly was formed,” Ahmed Said, the head of the largest liberal party the Free Egyptians, told reporters. Last week, the Islamist dominated-parliament voted for the panel to be made up of 50 lawmakers from the upper and lower houses of parliament, and 50 public figures.
But liberals argued that such a high proportion of legislators gave Islamists — who control nearly three quarters of parliament— too much control of the constitution. They also say that having 50 members of the panel outside parliament gives a false guarantee of balance, as voters are free to chose Islamists outside parliament. “We are talking about the constitution of Egypt, not one for a majority group,” Said said during a news conference of key liberal and leftist parties. With the current make-up, “the constitution will be drafted by political Islam… We refuse to betray the trust of the people,” he said. Meanwhile, Cairo’s Administrative Court began on Tuesday looking into the legitimacy of the constitutional panel after lawsuits were filed by several legal experts who argue that the constitution cannot be drafted by those whose role it will define. Dozens of protesters stood outside the Cairo court, chanting against Islamist domination of the panel. “The constitution is for all Egyptians,” they shouted.