Islamists divided over meeting on new constitution

The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and Jama'a al-Islamiya have said they will not attend a meeting on Tuesday called by Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Selmy to discuss the writing of a new constitution.

While the Salafi-led Asala and Sufi-led Egyptian Liberation parties confirmed they will attend, the Nour Party has not yet decided and the Fadila Party said it will not attend.

“The people have already delegated to parliament in the last referendum [the task of] writing the constitution,” said Freedom and Justice Party Secretary General Saad al-Katatny. “Why not meet then?”

In a statement on Monday, Katatny also said that elections will soon be underway for a new parliament to perform its legislative responsibilities, which have been disabled during the transitional period. “We are surprised that Selmy still talks about criteria for a constitutional committee,” he said.

“First they talk about supra-constitutional principles, then they issue a constitutional declaration,” he added. “Other than the elected members of parliament, no one has the right to impose conditions on the new constitution."

A statement from the Jama'a al-Islamiya on Tuesday read: "Selmy is a part of the executive branch and thus has no right to put in place criteria for a constituent assembly … The executive branch and 500 unelected persons setting criteria for the constitution means stealing the people’s right to elect parliament for that purpose.”

“As long as political forces are divided over this meeting, no criteria should be imposed, so as not to create chaos in the political arena,” the statement went on.

“We will submit our own criteria at the meeting," said Essam Mohy, secretary general of the Egyptian Liberation Party. “But we will first listen to what Selmy has to say.”

“We advocate the setting of principles for the new constitution,” Mohy added. “This should have been done a long time ago.”

Asala Party Secretary General Adel Afify suggested that any criteria for the constitution and its constituent committee should be advisory and not mandatory.

“I will propose at the meeting that the Supreme Constitutional Court, the State Council and the Court of Cassation should be the qualified bodies setting down such criteria,” Afify said.

Haitham Abu Khalil, co-founder of the Riyada Party – a splinter party formed by Muslim Brotherhood members – warned of imposing constitutional principles. “We will protest if Selmy insists,” he said.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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