Liberals resign from assembly drawing up Egypt's new constitution

At least 12 walk out after bickering with Islamists as next month's deadline looms

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 4:18am

A number of liberal politicians have withdrawn from the Islamist-dominated assembly drafting Egypt's new constitution, saying they were not given the opportunity to discuss articles and their suggestions were being ignored.

The departure of at least 12 liberals from the 100-member assembly on Sunday follows the resignation of five Christian delegates - as well as eight out of 10 members of an advisory committee providing technical assistance - over similar complaints.

The constitution is a cornerstone in Egypt's democratic transition after the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak last year. Without it, Egypt cannot hold elections to replace a parliament that a court declared void in June.

But bickering between Islamists and liberals over subjects such as the role of Islam in politics, civic freedoms and women's rights has delayed voting on articles in the charter.

And analysts have expressed worries that if the constitution does not enjoy broad consensus it will be a short-lived one, especially as it will have to be put to a referendum.

Pressure is mounting on the assembly to finish before a December 12 deadline, but members say they will continue on schedule.

"Passing the constitution in its current form is a loss to everyone, we can't be part of this constitution," said former Arab League secretary general and assembly member Amr Moussa, adding that differences were on "basic" articles.

"We were deprived of discussing articles which is the main task of the assembly," the former presidential candidate added, criticising the assembly's "rush" to finish.

Liberals, who include people behind the uprising that toppled Mubarak as well as figures who worked alongside him, have threatened to quit the assembly several times before.

They say they will draft an alternative constitution.

The assembly speaker, Hossam El Gheriany, said in a session on Sunday that they were welcome to return to the assembly within two days, after which the assembly will continue without them, drawing from a reserve list to make the 83 remaining back up to 100. Moussa said their withdrawal was final.

The withdrawing members say the current document fails to ensure economic and social rights for citizens and freedoms.

Drafts of the constitution drawn up by the assembly so far indicate it will have more Islamic references than the previous one.