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Who writes the constitution?

Youseef Sidhom | 28 August 2011

The groups which have chosen to break with the “national community” are untiringly shrieking in defence of “the people, and only the people, must draft the constitution”. In doing so, they deliberately deceive and distort public awareness by alleging that they singlehandedly care for the people’s interest, while they in fact seek to monopolise the process of drafting the constitution.

Drafting constitutions is a process originally undertaken by constituent assemblies. For the process to properly express the people’s aspirations, the constituent assembly should be the umbrella institution which brings together various groups, movements and affiliations. Based on this perception, the “national community” outlined the following vision:
Standards for the formation of the constituent committee
• All the members of the constituent committee are chosen from without the parliament’s two houses, and should, at the least, comply with the conditions for running for parliamentary elections.
• Members are not to occupy political or legislative posts for five years following the enactment of the constitution.
• The constituent committee elects a chairman, three vice chairmen and a secretary general through a majority vote. The five constitute the committee’s executive office.
• The constituent committee should equally represent groups from across the political spectrum, various religious affiliations, social forces and cultural currents, and should include intellectual pundits, figures of the arts and sciences, as well as representatives of specific sectors in the community, as follows:
1. Professional syndicate representatives, chosen by the syndicate boards.
2. Worker union representatives, chosen by union boards. 
3. Peasant representatives, chosen by the independent peasant unions that have been formed in the aftermath of the revolution.
4. University representatives, chosen by university boards and staff clubs. 
5. Rights, social and women’s group representatives, chosen by their specific sector coalitions.
6. Religious communities, as represented by al-Azhar; the Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical churches; and the Jewish community.
7. Representatives of scientific societies, chosen by their board councils.
8. Representatives of judiciary bodies, chosen by their general assemblies (Court of Cassation, State Council, Supreme Constitutional Court, administrative prosecution, and State Lawsuits Authority).
9. Writers union representatives, chosen by their board councils.
10. Representatives for special needs groups, chosen by their care-giver organisations.
11. Representatives of special groups that inhabit specific locations such as Sinai, Nubia, the New Valley, Halayeb and Shalateen.
12. Representatives of specific unions such as chambers of commerce, industrialists unions, or businessmen associations.
13. Representatives of the Armed Forces.
14. Representatives of the Police.
15. Representatives of licensed political parties.
16. Twenty deferential public figures including experts, constitutional scholars, independent public figures, symbols of thought, art and science.
• The constituent committee performs its mission in line with the following rules:
1. Deliberations take place in public. A TV ground channel is assigned to air the deliberations live.
2. A secretariat is formed by the constituent committee to receive suggestions from the public regarding its work.
3. Open hearings are held for various sectors of the community to discuss the ideas, proposals and queries of the public.
4. The committee publishes detailed minutes on its deliberations and preparatory works. The minutes help follow up on and document the committee’s work, for the benefit of correct interpretation of constitutional texts.
5. The committee presents the first draft of the constitution to open societal dialogue at least a month before submitting it for public referendum.   
I call upon Egyptians to properly scrutinise the standards proposed by the “National Community” to govern the selection of the members of the constituent committee charged with drafting the constitution. Egyptians should find out for themselves whether such a committee would adequately represent the Egyptian public in its entirety. More importantly, they should be able to avoid falling prey to those who circulate false arguments about “hijacking the will of the people”.

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