George Messiha and the Constitutional Assembly

George Messiha

George Messiha

From my recent article in Arab West Report:

George Messiha is young, an up-and-coming member of the political scene. In an effort to increase the representation of youth and Copts, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces appointed him to serve in the elected parliament. After the dissolution of this body by the Supreme Constitutional Court, Messiha returned to general Wafd Party politics, but also participated in a delegation to the Netherlands arranged by AWR editor-in-chief, Cornelis Hulsman. Members from each political trend participated, including Amr Darrag of the Muslim Brotherhood, who spoke proudly of the good work being done in the Constituent Assembly.

Messiha was already selected as one of fifty alternate members, but listening to Darrag convinced him to play a role once it became clear many non-Islamist figures were resigning in protest over the failure to achieve consensus. On October 16, 2012, he submitted his name for election to the body, and became one of nine replacement members tasked with completing the constitutional draft.

Unfortunately, his own experiences as a non-Islamist liberal did not match the impressions he obtained from the presentations of Darrag in The Netherlands.

The article is somewhat lengthy, but provides a very good overview of each member in the Constituent Assembly which wrote Egypt’s constitution. The point is to determine if the writing of the national charter was ‘dominated’ by Islamists, as it is often portrayed.

According to Messiha, 55% of the original members were Islamist in orientation. Following the mass withdrawal of many non-Islamists near the close of the process, the final count was 75%.

This article is not meant to be the final word. Arab West Report is currently producing a book on the Egyptian constitution; the question of member orientation is being put also to Islamists, both independent and affiliated with their official parties.

Holding judgment until then, here is the conclusion from the discussion with Messiha:

The Egyptian constitution reflects work inclusive of substantial non-Islamist participation. Many of the articles were discussed, argued, and formalized as divergent interests compromised and found agreement. But the charge that this is an ‘Islamist dominated’ constitution is also true. It is the product of a clear super-majority which approved the final text, recommending its presentation to the people in a referendum. Rightly or wrongly, non-Islamists felt themselves marginalized, and abandoned the process.

Whether it could have been otherwise is another story.

Please click here to read the whole article at Arab West Report.

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