Assembly of the wretched
By-Abdel Moneim Said | 28 March 2012
I am not the first or last to describe the 100-strong committee that will draft the constitution as the “assembly of the wretched”, to borrow the phrase used by Saad Zaghloul to describe the committee of 30 who drew up the 1923 constitution.
The description is appropriate to what seems to be a betrayal of the promise by the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) to the people that the majority of the assembly will be from outside parliament.
In the end, the decision was not based on an alliance between the FJP and civic parties in parliament but an alliance with Al-Nour Party, and thus creating a bloc that seems to revert the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda in 2007 that was leading towards a religious state.
Are these fears over-exaggerated and the formation of the assembly was appropriate for the requirements of drawing up a constitution before electing the next president, and what will come is different? The answer is perhaps.
In order to be certain, the presence of the Wafd party in the assembly is a wise decision, and it is also necessary and wise to urge Al-Tagammu to return and all parties to be present to demand a modern and balanced civic constitution based on the separation of powers and effective and efficient ruling system.
It is wise because the stability of state and society means to forge ahead according to the specified steps and rules of the game without change now. It is necessary because it is better for the state that the president should lead the country with a complete constitution, not a constitutional declaration.
Despite promising procedural steps, the political fundamental remains in the content. Once again, the frame of reference remains obvious, namely the two documents by Al-Azhar and the Democratic Alliance. If we commit to these two papers we will be half way to creating a rational state, and all that remains will be for the assembly to operate rationally and wisely.
However, if the two historic documents are ignored and the “Islamist” alliance follows the lead of Al-Nour Party – where the state would be mostly conservative – state and society will enter a dark tunnel that will be difficult to exit without great sacrifices.
Saad Zaghloul and his comrades were able to live with the constitution that the assembly of the wretched wrote, and some of their successors even revolted for this constitution to be restored after it was rescinded in 1930. After events since 1952 Egypt stopped being a constitutional state and today the people of Egypt are at the threshold of a new phase, in which the “assembly of the wretched” could produce a wretched constitution that is difficult to live with; or draft a constitution that we can live by until the country reaches safe shores. At that point in time, we can reassess.