Parliament convened this week in the midst of the uncertainty looming over the Constituent Assembly that will draft Egypt's post-Hosni Mubarak constitution.
The People's Assembly Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee had begun a round of talks with representatives of different political parties as well as legal and constitutional experts to compile suggestions on the optimum make-up of the 100-member Constituent Assembly. Yet, these talks did not go smoothly. On Monday, eight parties withdrew alleging that the discussions were not serious enough. This tension has cast more doubts over Parliament's ability to resolve differences and warned of a new political deadlock. If no agreement is reached, Parliament will incur a second failure over the same matter.
Last month, the Freedom-and-Justice-dominated Parliament had elected a predominantly Islamist assembly. This composition drove secular parties to walk out and provoked a lawsuit contesting the assembly's legality and its failure to represent different social and political trends. Eventually, the court disbanded the assembly and the military has intervened to reconcile quarreling civilian factions until they reach a formula whereby different social and political groups would be well-represented in the assembly.
In the meantime, the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee caused a stir among most liberal activists after signing off on the amendments suggested by Mamdouh Shahin, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to the law regulating military tribunals. The committee rubber-stamped Shahin's proposition that military courts shall have the exclusive right to specify what crimes fall under its jurisdiction. For human rights activists, this clause empowers the military judiciary and opens the door for the referral of more civilians to military trials. Additionally, the committee surrendered to the SCAF’s notorious demand that retired military officers shall stand trial for corruption charges only in military courts.
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