Egypt’s army asks parties to resolve crisis in 48 hours; ElBaradei wants vote canceled

Thousands of Egyptians poured into Tahrir Square to reclaim a revolt they say has been hijacked. (Reuters)

Egypt’s ruling military council on Tuesday gave political parties a two-day ultimatum to issue a parliamentary decision on the membership for the country’s constituent assembly – tasked with drafting a new constitution – or else it would issue a ‘constitutional annex’ or revive the 1971 constitution.

After a meeting with Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on Tuesday, political party representatives said that the council had given them a two-day period in which to issue a parliamentary decision on the membership criteria for Egypt's constituent assembly – tasked with drafting a new constitution – or else the SCAF would either issue a 'constitutional annex' or revive the 1971 constitution.

Following a meeting with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), representatives of political parties and the parliament said that if parliament failed to agree to issue viable membership criteria by Thursday, the SCAF would unilaterally issue a ‘constitutional annex’ or revive Egypt’s 1971 constitution, suspended since last year’s uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak from power.

The meeting with the military council was attended by representatives of a number of parties, but it was boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). It was also attended by a number of parliamentarians.

According to the online edition of Egypt’s state-run al-Ahram daily, political representatives who attended the meeting with the military council said they had refused a proposal to amend an article of the Constitutional Declaration, which, if modified, would state that the constituent assembly should be appointed according to a set of criteria set by parliament. This contradicts with its original text which states that assembly members should be directly elected by sitting MPs.

Mustapha Bakri, an independent MP, was quoted by al-Ahram as saying that representatives of parties who attended the meeting with SCAF would negotiate with the Muslim Brotherhood’s FJP and other parties the issue of proposed legislation laying down membership criteria of the constituent assembly instead of amending the Constitutional Declaration.

According to the proposed amendment, the assembly should include heads of parties represented in parliament; heads of judiciary bodies; elected heads of professional syndicates; and civil society representatives, in order to ensure the assembly is not dominated by a single political current. Twenty public figures representing women, youth and Copts should also be included, which is still unclear who would choose them.

Shortly after the formation of the first constituent assembly in April, a mass pullout by non-Islamist members jeopardized the assembly’s future, arguing that the assembly in its current form did not represent the Egyptian society.

ElBaradei calls for canceling elections

Mohammed ElBaradei

Meanwhile, upon arriving in Egypt from Vienna late Tuesday, former presidential hopeful and opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters at the airport that the real battle was “writing Egypt’s new constitution and canceling the presidential elections, because the legitimacy of one of the candidates is highly doubtful,” referring to presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, who was Mubarak’s last prime minister.

Shafiq is challenging the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi in the election run-off, scheduled on June 16 and 17. Egyptian expatriates have already started to cast their ballots in the run-off.

Egypt’s daily al-Masry al-Youm quoted ElBaradei as saying that “Egyptians have been driven to demonstrate in squares across the country because the goals of the January 25 revolution have not been achieved.” ElBaradei did not vote in the Egyptian elections as he had left the country few days before the voting.

ElBaradei also set doubts over the legitimacy of Parliament and said that he was heading to Cairo’s iconic al-Tahrir Square to “support the protesters.”
The former nuclear watchdog chief said that he would hold a meeting with the revolutionary youth as the “revolution did not achieve any of its goals, including bread, freedom and social justice,” the report by al-Masry al-Youm said.

Thousands of Egyptians poured into Tahrir Square on Tuesday to reclaim a revolt they say has been hijacked after Mubarak was jailed for life and his top security officials freed in a sign they say his old guard is still in charge.

Although Mubarak was imprisoned on Saturday over the killing of protesters, he escaped the death penalty and senior officers tried with him were acquitted for lack of evidence, so many now believe the deposed leader could win an appeal.

“No to Mursi, no to Shafiq, the revolution is half-way through,” read a placard held up by one youth in Tahrir Square, calling for a boycott of the vote.

The vote is the final step before the army, which took charge when Mubarak was driven out, formally hands over to a new president by July 1. That marks the end of a transition marred by protests, political bickering and sometimes bloodshed.

Although the generals will formally hand over power, analysts and diplomats expect them to remain an influential player from behind the scenes for years to come.


(Written by Abeer Tayel)

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