Cairo (AsiaNews) - "The suspension of the constituent assembly is an attempt to hold in check the excessive power of Islamist parties. It is also a sign of hope for justice in our country," said Fr Rafik Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church as he spoke about the decision by an administrative court to block the proceedings of the assembly. In its ruling, the court decided that the Islamist-dominated body was unconstitutional and lacked the legitimacy to draft the country's new constitution.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) yesterday accepted the court's decision, stressing that the assembly was not representative of the Egyptian people.
Christians, al Azhar and pro-democracy parties are concerned that the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists are doing everything they can to turn Egypt into an Islamic state.
For security reasons, the court has not yet made public the reasons for its ruling, which was triggered by complaints filed by Liberal parties and women's groups. Radical parties took advantage of Article 60 of the constitutional declaration. The latter defines the powers of the constituent assembly but not the criteria to nominate its members, Fr Greiche explained.
With a 70 per cent majority in parliament, Islamists took 48 of the 100 seats available, making any challenge impossible. They also limited representation from groups outside of party politics, like al Azhar University and the Coptic Orthodox Church, who pulled out their representatives to protest the Islamist power. For their part, the Catholic Church and other groups were simply excluded altogether from the assembly.
"Egypt is in a new deadlock," Fr Greiche said. "Today, SCAF announced a new decree to define the criteria by which constituent assembly members will be selected. But so far, no one knows how to act. This threatens upcoming presidential elections in June."
At present, a bill that would bar members of the former Mubarak regime is under discussion. However, Mubarak's former vice president, Omar Suleiman, has taken everyone by surprise and announced that he is running. "He is a shadowy figure and is disliked by the people," the priest said.
Under the old regime, Suleiman ran the secret services. In recent days, he threatened his detractors by saying that he had secret papers that could compromise the reputation of his main adversaries, like Khairat el-Shater, who is running for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Fr Greiche noted that the main candidates represent parties connected to the armed forces or extremist movements. Liberal parties still have to pick a candidate to represent their coalition.
Candidates have until 27 April to submit their names. Amr Moussa, a former secretary general of the Arab League, could run for pro-democracy forces. (S.C.)