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Rights group initiative aims to include people in writing the constitution

Others | 16 June 2011

CAIRO: The Hisham Mubarak Law Center launched an initiative titled “Let’s Write Our Constitution” to include the Egyptian people in the process of drafting the constitution.

The portrayal of the writing of the constitution as a very complicated matter that can only be done by experts “contradicts the necessity of the people’s approval on the constitution,” according to the statement distributed by the center during a workshop on Monday.
 
The elected members of the new parliament will assign a 100-member constituent assembly to draft a new constitution within six months of its appointment, according to the proposed amendments on the constitution. The parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place in September.
 
The new constitution would be approved by a referendum within 15 days of its completion.
 
On March 19, 77.2 percent voted yes in a referendum on the constitutional amendments, while 22.8 percent voted no.
 
On March 30, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) announced a constitutional decree consisting of 62 articles including the amended articles approved by the majority of Egyptian voters.
 
The center’s statement speculated that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be marred with corruption and dominated by specific political parties, which will prevent the representation of different sects of the Egyptian society.
 
It added that 15 days aren’t enough to raise social debate regarding the new constitution.
 
“We want to link the ordinary people’s personal interests and priorities to the new constitution,” Ahmed Ragheb, director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, said during the workshop.
 
The initiative depends on three basic principles; freedom and human dignity, establishing a state of democratic institutions ruled by the people, and social justice.
 
Ragheb said that a popular charter will include the people’s rights and their view on the state’s institutions and their responsibilities, including the army, the police forces, and the judiciary.
 
The initiative’s first phase involves gathering enough volunteers to distribute questionnaires on the people on the street and hold discussions regarding the new constitution. The volunteers will coordinate with workers’ syndicates, neighborhood watches and social workers.
 
They will talk to people representing different governorates and sects including workers, farmers and vendors, in a bid to represent the majority of the Egyptian society. This phase will be completed in three months.
 
The people’s demands and aspirations will then be summarized in a popular charter. The charter will be used to draft the constitution, which will be open for public discussion and amended accordingly.
 
The final draft will then be announced and signatures will be gathered from the people and political groups to approve it. The final phase will include presenting the draft to the official committee responsible for writing the new constitution.
 
“If we gain wide support from the people and the media over this draft, we will pressure the official committee to include it in the new constitution,” blogger Alaa Abdel-Fatah said.
 
He added that the committee won’t be able to stand in the face of the people’s demands.
 
Ragheb stressed that the purpose of the initiative wasn’t to raise the people’s awareness regarding the constitution or different political systems, adding that the purpose was to include the people’s dream and aspirations in the new constitution that should represent them.
 
Ragheb said that the charter will focus on the people rather than prominent political parties or figures which already dominate the political scene.
 
The center will also launch a website to facilitate online discussions with a large number of people and gathering signatures on the final draft of the constitution.
 
The April 6 Youth Movement launched a similar initiative on Sunday, however, it will involve raising the people’s awareness regarding the political systems and different articles in the constitution.
 
The initiative also includes a questionnaire that will be distributed on the people or filled online, in addition to public discussions with people from the society’s different sects.
 
“We want the people to start thinking outside the box that was set by SCAF regarding the constitution,” spokesman of the April 6 Youth Movement Mohamed Adel told Daily News Egypt.
 
The movement will also hold discussions with prominent political powers and figures regarding the new constitution.
 
The questionnaire includes questions regarding the state’s political system, its reference, the economic system and the state’s role in boosting it, and public and personal freedoms.
 
Adel said that the movement was cooperating with the center to exchange information and reach the largest number of people.

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