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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Egypt’s Constituent Assembly approved final draft of Egypt’s Constitution amid massive protests against it nationwide

Egyptians protesting in Cairo's Tahrir Square
After 16-hours marathon of discussing the articles of the drafting of Egypt’s new Constitution and voting the Constituent Assembly approved the draft. Despite the fact that nearly two thirds of the Assembly’s members including liberal, leftist and secular representatives and also women and representatives of the Coptic Church as well have withdrawn from the Assembly the process of voting took place.

The meeting of the Islamist-led Constituent Assembly was held in the building of Shura Council (Egypt’s upper house of Parliament) and started in the evening of Thursday, 29 November. The members of the Constituent Assembly have been working all night long, discussing and voting for each of more than 320 articles one by one. At 6 a.m. local time Hossam El-Gheryani, the chairman of Egypt’s Constituent Assembly, announced that the final draft of Egypt’s future Constitution was approved by the majority of the Assembly’s members (85 members). He also declared that the draft would be handed over to Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsy, and Mr. Morsy is expected to announce on Saturday, 1 December, the date of the national referendum, which is expected to be held in the middle of December.

It’s worth mentioning, that the voting and approval of the Constitutional draft came in rush despite the extra two month given to the Constituent Assembly by the controversial Constitutional Declaration issued by President last week. In addition to that the process of voting came right before the court session which was scheduled for Sunday, 2 December, which was expected to dissolve the current Constituent Assembly due to its unconstitutionality.

Egypt's Constituent Assembly voting for the draft of the
Such a surprising move and voting for the draft of the Constitution in rush and despite the absence of more than two thirds of the Assembly (the members who have withdrawn were changed with the Islamists) sparked the anger among the oppositional forces and provoked deeper divisions within the Egyptian society.

The current draft of the Constitution is totally rejected by the liberals and secularists as it doesn’t represent all Egyptian citizens and threatens the democracy. According to the statements of several oppositional figures and also some political analysts, lawyers and human rights activists, this Constitution violates the rights and freedoms and is designed to serve the one fraction of the society only. As I am not a lawyer and not a specialist in this field, I will not comment the articles of the Constitution here.

Egyptian oppositional forces and prominent political figures have held the meeting on Thursday to discuss the current situation regarding the issue of the presidential Constitutional Declaration which gave the President wider powers and signaled the attempts to monopolize the power in the country and to discuss the draft of the Constitution.

Egypt's Constituent Assembly voting for the draft of the
Leftist, liberal and independent political forces have met on Thursday at the headquarters of the Egypt’s Socialist Popular Alliance Party. This meeting was attended by Egypt’s Socialist Popular Current Party, the Popular Current movement, Constitution Party, Egyptian Social Democratic Party, National Front for Justice and Democracy, April 6th Youth Movement, the Free Egyptians Party, Maspero Youth Coalition and many other political parties and organizations.

The members of the meeting have issued a joint statement calling for Egyptians to take to the streets nationwide to protest the latest Constitutional Declaration issued by Mohamed Morsy and also the draft of the Constitution as it cannot be accepted and put to the referendum.

It’s worth mentioning that according to some analysts such a move with rapid voting and approval of the final Constitution’s draft was made in attempt to make less the anger of the oppositional forces protesting against the controversial Constitutional Declaration of Morsy. Mohamed Morsy stated before that his decree was not a try to grab all the state’s powers and had the temporally character as it will be valid until the new Constitution will be approved and the new Parliament will be chosen. Thus, the opponents of Morsy’s decision and Islamist domination in power appeared in a hard situation when they need to chose between the undemocratic presidential decree which they strongly oppose and the Constitution which they also reject as it doesn’t represent all the society and was approved with the serious violations of the law. This move has only angered the oppositional forces and the protesters more causing more divisions in the society and provoking tenser atmosphere.

Egyptians protesting against Constitution's draft, Cairo
Thus, more than 100,000 demonstrators gathered on Friday, 31 November, in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square to protests the Constitutionals Declaration and also the draft of the Constitution. Massive protests have been held in other Egyptian governorates.

In Cairo the protesters have been moving to Tahrir Square from several directions. They have been chanting against the Constitution and the Constitutional Declaration and against tyranny and dictatorship which Morsy and Islamists are trying to impose in Egypt. “The people want to bring down the regime!” chanted the protesters.

One of the leaders of Egyptian recently created National Salvation Front, oppositional figure and ex-presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahy made a speech and stated that the protests and sit-ins will continue until the Constitution and the Declaration will be cancelled.

Hamdeen Sabbahy and also Mohamed ElBaradei, prominent oppositional leader, announced they will spend the night in Tahrir with the protesters.

The opposition declared they will escalate their protests, some of the forces even called for the civil disobedience.

The journalists have declared the strike protesting the new Constitution and its articles regarding the rights and freedoms in media. Egyptian judges also continue their protests.

Tens of thousands remain in Tahrir and in other squares nationwide protesting the presidential decree and the draft of the Constitution and they are not going to stop the demonstrations. “The revolutions is back”, say the protesters.

Egyptians protesting against the draft of the Constitution
Meanwhile, the Islamist forces, including Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, support the Constitutional Declaration issued by Morsy and the draft of the Constitution as wee and have called for the massive rally to support Mohamed Morsy and the Constitution on Saturday. Their previous rally which was expected to take place on Tuesday was postponed until Saturday. The Islamist rally was planned to take place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, but the plans have been changed, and the location was changed to Cairo University in Giza. This decision was taken to avoid the potential clashes between the supporters of Morsy and Islamists and oppositional protesters gathered in Tahrir Square.

Oppositional forces also say there are possibly two options for them in the current situation: either to boycott the upcoming national referendum on the Constitution which is expected to be announced on Saturday, or engage in a massive campaign among the Egyptians to convince them to vote against this Constitution. But the better option is not to allow this draft to be put on the national referendum as this Constitution was written with the serious violations of law and doesn’t represent the whole Egyptian society and that’s why it cannot be accepted, stated the opposition and the protesters.