Top News: Constituent Assembly Discusses Freedom of Religion, Future of the Presidency

Constituent Assembly

Freedom of religion, the fate of the Information Ministry and the possibility of re-staging presidential elections after the constitution is drafted were all discussed during the Constituent Assembly’s meeting on Wednesday. The assembly’s rights and freedoms committee discussed eight out of 17 articles related to freedoms, agreeing that the article on freedom of religion should prohibit the practice of religious rites other than those of the three Abrahamic religions. 


Constituent Assembly discusses freedom of religion, future of the presidency

[Al Ahram (Arabic), Egypt Independent, 7/4/2012] Freedom of religion, the fate of the Information Ministry and the possibility of re-staging presidential elections after the constitution is drafted were all discussed during the Constituent Assembly’s meeting on Wednesday. The assembly’s rights and freedoms committee discussed eight out of 17 articles related to freedoms, agreeing that the article on freedom of religion should prohibit the practice of religious rites other than those of the three Abrahamic religions. Meanwhile, also during Wednesday’s meeting, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Sobhi Saleh said that the majority of the assembly is for cancelling the Information Ministry and instead forming a public service unit that would be autonomous from the government. Saleh also said that the assembly has formed a committee to decide whether President Mohamed Morsy should stay in office after the new constitution is drafted, or whether the assembly should then call for early presidential elections. The Constituent Assembly also agreed that the new constitution would stipulate that the reports of the Central Auditing Organization would be published for public view.

Islamists debate role of Sharia in constitution

[Egypt Independent, 7/4/2012] Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb headed a meeting comprised of Constituent Assembly members from Al-Azhar, Salafi groups and the Muslim Brotherhood as well as a number of scholars to discuss Article 2 of the constitution and Sharia Law, state-run news service MENA reported on Wednesday. Al-Azhar issued a statement saying that the participants in the meeting agreed on the wording of Article 2, and their draft will be made public after more work has been done on it. All participants stressed that Al-Azhar is responsible for all Islam-related affairs in Egypt, which should be included in the new constitution.

Church threatens to withdraw from Constituent Assembly over Sharia article

[Al Ahram Gateway (Arabic), Egypt Independent, 7/5/2012] The Coptic Orthodox Church threatened to withdraw its Constituent Assembly representatives Wednesday over concerns the new constitution will not represent minorities. Church leaders discussed the potential withdrawal Wednesday in an all-day meeting, according to Bishop Benjamin of Monufiya. At the heart of the discussion was ongoing debate within the assembly over whether Article 2 of the 1971 Constitution should be changed. Some conservative Islamists have advocated that language stipulating "the principles of Sharia," as the primary source of legislation be changed to "the commandments of Sharia," which could allow for a more literal application of Islamic law. Coptic leaders want the original language preserved with an additional clause allowing non-Muslims to follow their own religious laws.


Islamist parties debate nominees for minister posts

[Egypt Independent, 7/4/2012] The search for a prime minister is still ongoing 10 days after Mohamed Morsy was officially declared president. The Salafi Nour Party has proposed a technocrat for the post, and requested that Morsy assign the ministries of communications, industry and endowments to the party. A source at the Freedom and Justice Party said it had not yet been agreed whether the new government would consist of technocrats or a coalition of various parties. Political sources close to the presidency said Morsy may request members of the current government to continue serving in their positions for the next three months.

Brotherhood may be avoiding pledge for representative cabinet

[Egypt Independent, 7/5/2012] In recent days, the debate over the type of cabinet needed has flared. Some groups insist that Morsy deliver on his electoral promise of appointing a national coalition government, while others contend that it is time to put the Islamist project to the test and have the Muslim Brotherhood and its ideological allies take on the Cabinet’s responsibilities. While the typical definition of a coalition government is an executive organ in which each political party has a specific share of ministerial portfolios corresponding to its political weight, Islamists do not envision a coalition government in the strict sense of the word. Magdy Sobhy, a political analyst at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said the FJP discourse on the need for technocratic ministers is meant to evade Morsy’s initial promise about forming a coalition with other political forces.

Constitution Party to submit registration papers next week

[Egypt Independent, 7/5/2012] The Constitution Party will submit its registration papers to the Parties Affairs Committee next week after it assembles the required number of signatures, said Hossam Eissa, a law professor at Ain Shams University and a founding member of the party. Eissa said the party — which was cofounded by Mohamed ElBaradei, Alaa Al Aswany, Gameela Ismail and Ahmed Harara — will adopt ElBaradei’s document on supra-constitutional principles and will demand that the Constituent Assembly include those principles in the new constitution. There have been ongoing negotiations with a number of other parties regarding their integration into the Constitution Party, Eissa added.


Judge Helped Egypt’s Military to Cement Power

[New York Times, Egypt Independent, 7/5/2012] Tahani el-Gebali, deputy president of the Supreme Constitutional Court, said she advised the generals not to cede authority to civilians until a Constitution was written. The Supreme Court then issued a decision that allowed the military to dissolve the first fairly elected Parliament in Egypt’s history and assure that the generals could oversee drafting of a Constitution. The behind-the-scenes discussions, never publicly disclosed, shed new light on what some have called a judicial coup. From the moment the military seized control from President Hosni Mubarak, the generals “certainly” never intended to relinquish authority before supervising a new Constitution, Judge Gebali said. Gebali said that she would sue the American newspaper, claiming that it had not in fact interviewed her for the story. The campaign against her is the result of her “refusal of the statements made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who described the Egyptian judiciary as being politicized,” Gebali said.


Egyptian Coptic activists declare creation of Christian Brotherhood

[Al Masry Al Youm (Arabic), Al Arabiya, 7/5/2012] A group of Coptic activists in Egypt announced the establishment of the Christian Brotherhood to counter the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood especially after their candidate Mohammed Mursi won the presidential elections. The Christian Brotherhood has branches in 16 governorates in Egypt as well as four branches outside Egypt, three in Europe and one in Australia. Political analyst Michel Fahmi explained that it was the victory of Muslim Brotherhood candidate presidential elections that necessitated taking steps towards creating the new Brotherhood and is not meant to compete with Muslims but with the rise of political Islam. The Salafi Front welcomed the establishment of the Christian Brotherhood as the counterpart of the Muslim Brotherhood.


US senate bill conditions Egypt aid on disclosure of security budget

[Ahram Online, 7/4/2012] A draft bill proposed by the US Senate conditions US military assistance to Egypt on public disclosure of Egypt’s military and police budgets. The bill, tabled on 24 May by democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, outlines the conditions that the government of Egypt must meet to qualify for aid. The bill also states that the government of Egypt should provide "civilian control over, and public disclosure of, [Egypt’s] military and police budgets." Details of Egypt’s military budget are not publicly available and most of the LE27.3 billion allocated for defence is simply chalked up to "other expenses." A similar bill has also been presented to the US House of Representatives, but this does not put any disclosure requirements on Egypt’s military or police budgets.

Egypt ministry official accuses US Congress of ‘illegal’ NGO funding

[Ahram Online, 7/4/2012] In the latest chapter of Egypt’s NGO drama, official from International Cooperation Ministry reiterates charges that US Congress funded unlicensed civil-society groups. Ambassador Marwan Zaki, who has served as a senior assistant to Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Abul-Naga for ten years, claimed that US Congress had funded both foreign and Egyptian NGOs that had failed to register with Egyptian authorities. Zaki also asserted that Egyptian authorities had remained silent about what he described as "violations" of Egypt’s foreign-funding policy so as not to threaten the military and economic aid Egypt has traditionally received from the US.

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