CAIRO Dec 27 A Christian member of Egypt's
upper house of parliament quit on Thursday, reflecting
persistent political tensions just a day after the
Islamist-dominated chamber took over legislative authority under
a contentious new constitution.
The Islamist-backed charter, approved in a referendum this
month, is meant to be the cornerstone of a democratic and
economically stable Egypt. But the opposition says it is too
Islamist and does nothing to protect minorities.
The resignation of Nadia Henry, who represents the Anglican
Church in the upper house, also highlights worries by Egypt's
Christians, who make up about a tenth of its 83 million
population, about political gains made by Islamists since Hosni
Mubarak was ousted in a 2011 revolution.
Under pressure to show tolerance towards all groups,
President Mohamed Mursi appointed 90 members including
Christians, Liberals and women to the upper house - with
Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood and ultra-conservative
Salafis - last week.
But in a resignation letter published by the state-owned
al-Ahram newspaper, Henry said liberal and other minority groups
were not represented properly in the chamber.
"I agreed to the membership of the Shura Council (upper
house) in the context of consensus that stressed all civil
forces will get appointed," Henry wrote.
"Since that did not happen, I hope you accept my apology for
not accepting the appointment," she said.
She did not attend the upper house session on Wednesday, the
first with the appointed members.
The opposition fears that the Shura Council upper house,
which will hold legislative authority until a new parliament is
elected in early 2013, will issue laws curbing freedoms.
Mursi signed the new constitution into law this week after
two thirds of Egyptian voters approved it in a two-stage
referendum this month which the opposition said was marred by
Propelled to power by his Muslim Brotherhood allies this
year, Mursi says the constitution and a subsequent vote to elect
a permanent lower house will help stop political unrest and
allow him to focus on burning economic issues.
Henry was one of the 90 members handpicked by Mursi into the
270-seat council. She was not immediately available for comment.
Any further resignations would threaten the legitimacy of
the Shura Council at a time when it is expected to move fast
with difficult reforms key to helping Egypt's battered economy.
Two-thirds of the upper house were elected in a vote this
year, with one third appointed by the president, some of whom
are members of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice
Party and other ultra-conservative Salafis.
Mursi and his Islamist allies have urged the opposition to
engage in national unity talks to achieve much needed consensus
to help end an economic crisis that has widened the budget
deficit and sent the Egyptian pound to a eight-year low.
"We stress again that the nation should achieve internal
reconciliation and forget its differences," the Muslim
Brotherhood's supreme guide, Mohamed Badei, told Egyptians in
his weekly message.
"Let's work seriously to end the reciprocal wars of
attrition. We are in an urgent need to unify ranks and group
together and focus our capabilities and assets to the general
The constitution has come under attack from Mursi's
opponents after Christians and liberals quit an assembly tasked
with drafting the constitution earlier, saying the document gave
no guarantees of a civil state and threatened freedoms.