Al-Ahram Weekly Online   29 March - 4 April 2012
Issue No. 1091
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

The Brotherhood's broken promises

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Nour Party have pushed the country towards the worst political crisis it has faced since the forced removal of former president Hosni Mubarak 14 months ago, by deciding to unilaterally control the formation of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting the country's new constitution.

Furthermore, it has become almost impossible to trust the promises made by leaders of the country's oldest political Islamist group after they have broken nearly every single pledge they declared since they became a legal organisation, no longer preceded by the title "outlawed" as the case had been for the past six decades.

First, the Brotherhood vowed not to seek to control the process of the formation of the Constituent Assembly. They promised that the assembly would be inclusive and that Egyptians would take their time to discuss the standards required for joining the 100-member assembly, and the content of the constitution itself. But in one day only, all the promises were broken, and the Brotherhood's leadership twisted the articles of the interim Constitutional Declaration, in effect since Mubarak's removal, to assure that they alone decide the make-up of the drafting assembly.

Members of parliament went to a joint meeting of the People's Assembly and the Shura Council on Saturday to pick 100 names out of more than 2,700 candidates and they only had one hour to do it. Thus, it was an absurd process rather than a serious one that could have taken up to six months according to the present laws.

The Brotherhood leaders said that since Article 60 of the Constitutional Declaration stated that members of both houses of parliament, the People's Assembly and the Shura Council, should "elect" the Constituent Assembly, they had the right to give 50 out of its 100 seats to parliament members only. Their argument was that since more than 70 per cent of Egyptians had given their votes to the Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, and to the Salafist Nour Party, they had more right to take part in the drafting of the new constitution. Originally, the Brotherhood said only 40 out of the 100 members of the assembly would come from both houses of parliament. But without any justification, and despite protests from secular and leftist parties that the assembly should not include any parliament members at all, they decided suddenly to increase the parliament's share to 50 seats.

This was the first major twist of facts the Brotherhood's leaders committed, misrepresenting the difference between electing a parliament, and an assembly to draft a constitution. Needless to say, the results of parliamentary elections change, and the party that enjoys a majority now could easily become a minority in a few years if it fails to meet the expectations of voters. Thus, enjoying a majority in parliament does not mean that the concerned parties can start drafting the constitution according to their own wishes. Constitutions, in most cases, outlast many rounds of parliamentary elections, and should represent the general principles guiding the country for generations to come, and not just a few years.

To make things worse, the Brotherhood bluntly disregarded the nomination of university scholars, judiciary members, trade unionists and even members of the Foreign Ministry for membership of the remaining 50 seats in the assembly reserved for non-parliamentary members. They put the nominations aside and picked up their own loyalists, assuring that the country's next constitution would be drafted according to their own views only. Now, they are asking Egyptians to wait until they finish drafting the constitution, and then judge the final product in a final referendum. But that's a dangerous risk that many Egyptians would not be willing to make, especially after all the previous broken promises of the Brotherhood.

No sane Egyptian wants to see the current parliament dissolved by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, because that would be a serious blow to the entire democratic process after Mubarak's removal. But no sane person could also accept what the Brotherhood is offering now. They have to admit their mistake and reconsider the formation of the Constituent Assembly to become more representative of all Egyptians, and not just political Islamist groups.

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